We Never Grew Food Without Bees

Bees have been a topic of conversation in our home for the past four years.  I have to admit, initially, an article about swarming had me shut down my husband’s plans for a bee colony in our backyard.  However, despite this, my husband has been reading, researching and making plans.  In fact, last Spring, he even took a course offered by the University of Guelph and the Ontario Beekeeper’s Association on how to handle bees and maintain hives.  He and a friend started a first colony last summer on a farm near us.  A few weeks ago, we got an exciting picture:  the bees survived the winter and are thriving!  He and his friend have now ordered an additional four “nucs” – a queen and some bees on a frame, that they will be installing in May.  This will bring their total to five colonies.  Despite my initial trepidation, I have been charmed by these bees and I have learned so much about them through this hobby of my husband’s.

This weekend, we saw this commercial at home:

I have to admit, this ad struck a chord with me mainly because of my personal connection to this topic.  However, I also think that the music was spot on and was really persuasive.  I’ll also admit that my daughters and I have gone to the site and we have a set of free wildflower seeds that are coming in the next few weeks.  They are pretty excited and it was fun to do.

I also decided to check out the hashtag #bringbackthebees and found some interesting tweets.  I found another ad campaign by “Burt’s Bees” where tweets with missing letter “b”s are being shared with the hashtag “bringbackthebees”.  I also discovered people tweeting out different flowers and plants that are good for pollinators.  I found that there is an equivalent hashtag in French too: #ramenonslesabeilles.

So, I went on a little tweet-a-thon of my own, sharing the two campaigns and some of the interesting tweets shared via #bringbackthebees.  And knowing my PLN, I knew I would get a few responses.  A “buzz” if you will (a terrible pun! – groan).

I don’t know about you, but part of the appeal of Twitter to me is people with strong opinions and who are passionate.  I don’t only follow people that agree with my beliefs.  I also have a lot of respect for people who are critical thinkers and who will call “BS” on some of the things that are floating around out there.

One critical thinker that I know, who is not afraid to question and to challenge others in dialogue, is Munazzah Shirwani (@HandsOnilm).  She tweeted me a quick “I though CCD (Colony collapse disorder) wasn’t a thing”.  I can understand this response.  There is a lot of debate out there on this issue and people are manipulating the statistics like crazy.

Taking a look at this Margaret Wente article: “Good News, There is no Honeybee Crisis” would certainly lead you to believe so.  But like anything else, you have to take a look at all sides and a good response to her article can be found here.  I decided to ask my own resident “expert” – my husband.  He explained that more people are raising bees.  So, the population is going up.  However, the mortality rate still remains too high.  The factors contributing to this rate are also under debate: harsh winters, neonics (chemicals on the seeds farmers use), pesticides, herbicides, NGOs, mites etc.  I don’t think I’ve convinced Munazzah (yet), but it has highlighted to me that I do need to deepen my understanding of the numbers.

I really enjoyed this article that was tweeted out by www.davidsuzuki.org this week:

Will Toronto go Wild About Wild Bees?

It highlights that it’s not just bees that are at risk.  Other pollinators such as wasps and butterflies are at risk too.

A person who questions you in your PLN is very valuable.  Munazzah has even challenged me to do some research on a critique of the Cheerios campaign via @YoniFreedhoff.  He questions how many chemicals are sprayed on the wheat used to make Cheerios.  He has a point there! He also used a hashtag #causewashing.  This is a new term for me.  But investigating it brings up Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign raising awareness of mental health or “green washing” for products that aim to help the environment.  It will be interesting to see the rise or decline in this type of cause marketing campaigns in the future.

Regardless of your stance, I think it’s worth discussing or investigating in class.  Fortunately, a few other people agreed.  I had some conversation with Jane Baird (@janebaird123) and Jonathan Oswald (@JonathanDOswald), two TVDSB colleagues of mine too.  A few others chimed in too. We started making some curriculum and resource links:

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Through all of these conversations, my thinking has been pushed and I’ve been led to different perspectives and resources that I did not know about.

I don’t expect everyone to go and install bee colonies.  But simple actions like planting milkweed for butterflies or other plants that support pollinators are great actions to take.  It certainly won’t harm anything.  And perhaps the real lesson behind this isn’t weather bees are declining or not.  It’s stewardship, which is vital for our young people to learn.  We must model this through our actions as educators and parents.

When looking at inquiry, these messy, complex issues are important.  We have to teach students how to look at multiple perspectives, how to look at data that is manipulated by biases or to further a cause.  For instance, I bet farmers who are upset about the ban on neonics in Ontario and the Ontario Beekeepers Association have different takes on bee population data.

I think the video above is a great way to get the conversation going.  There are great images and infographics online worth gathering as well.  Or what about a provocative quote/image to get a debate going?

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As always, I welcome your thoughts, questions and further conversation in the comments section below.

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