Thursday 2 September 2021

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard

Dancing with Bees 

Subtitled 'a journey back to nature' this is an inspiring account of the author's relationship with nature, specifically bees.  

Howard starts from the point of acknowledging that she had stopped noticing nature. From there she documents how she relearned a love of nature, focussing specifically on bees, and building on that love to develop her knowledge. 

The book discusses issues facing bees, including colony collapse, climate change and invasive species (which can in fact include honey bees, which compete with native bumblebees and other pollinators). Changing land use is another issue that can negatively impact bee populations (writing below of potential changes to agricultural land around Sedgehill in the English county of Wiltshire): 

"If farm buildings are replaced with residential buildings, some of the lingering marshy land in Sedgehill might be drained and paved over, resulting in reduced habitat for the Yellow Loosestrife bee"

Howard is passionate about valuing nature for itself: 

" angers me, also, when people talk of 'biodiversity offsetting' as though somehow promising to plant an equal number of trees somewhere else makes it acceptable to destroy old woodlands and the ecosystems that have grown up around and within them."

The book also outlines how to help bees, including recommending some specific plants that bees love, including ivy and comfrey (which is also a great soil enricher, particularly in the form of 'comfrey tea, the making of which is described here.)

The most fascinating and inspiring element of the book though is the author's obvious love of nature and how she uses her curiosity to find out more about what she sees around her. Her close observations of a wool carder bee collecting hairs from the leaves of a lambs' ear plant are beautiful. On another occasion, she shares some of her thoughts when watching a bee: 'why does it stick its legs out like that?' This kind of curiosity is both a great way of engaging with nature, but also a real route into citizen science, which helps map which species are present where and feeds this information into conservation.

Overall, this is an inspiring book, which will make the reader look more closely at bees and consider more deeply the relationship we need to develop with nature if we are all to thrive. 

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard published by Chelsea Green Publishing.

No comments: