BEES FROM WIEJSKA STREET

ANDRZEJ TARWID

Small urban apiaries are a chance for bees’ survival. This is important because if bees die, the human fate on the earth will also be affected by it – Albert Einstein used to say.

Dr. Jakub Gąbka has just received honey. Not the first one in his life, because he got interested in it many years ago thanks to his father. But this honey is unusual because it comes from 10 beehives which at the end of June appeared outside the building of the Polish parliament. Only a month was enough and hardworking insects repaid with honey in the colour of dark amber.

Most people probably think that honey from such a place as the centre of the capital city is worse. But it is completely the other way round. Here bees have got a useful base. There are flowers and bushes nearby, and behind the nearby fence there is a park where, among the others, maples, acacias and limes grow. The quality of the Warsaw honey was also confirmed by investigations. They also showed that honey from urban bees is much healthier than the one collected from some rural areas – Dr. Gąbka tells ‘Niedziela’ and explains: - This is the result of the fact that today in cities less herbicides or pesticides are used than on many agricultural areas. Moreover, it is a long time we have not used leaded petrol in our cars. All this contributes to the good quality of the urban honey.

The idea of putting an apiary in Wiejska street was suggested by a minister Jan Węgrzyn, the deputy of the chief of the Seym Office. – All MPs willingly accepted this idea because beekeeping has not got any colours of a political party. And, probably in every parliamentary club MPs having beehives – says Węgrzyn, among the others, but he also emphasizes: - Certainly, the basic purpose which we were following, is very serious. We have brought bees onto this area of the Seym, because we wanted to draw attention to the problem of their dying out. And we also wanted to promote the idea of keeping these extremely useful insects in the city.

The world problem

Experts say that bees are a measurement of the quality of environment surrounding us. When environment is very polluted, bees die out as well as not pollinated species of plants.

For example, in Poland bees pollinate 80 per cent of flower plants and in the whole world about 170 thousand of plants species. – It is estimated – dr. Gąbka says, who is an academic worker in the Main School of Rural Household – that it was not for an honey bee, there would not be about 40 thousand plants species all over the world.

What consequences would it have for the whole ecosystem of the earth? It is not quite known. But it happens more and more frequently not only among academic workers but also politicians, that the opinion of Albert Einstein is repeated like memento. He is thought to be the most prominent mind in the history of humankind who said: ‘ If a bee disappears from the earth, the man will live for only four years; there are not any more bees, not any more pollination, not any more plants, not any more animals, not any more people…’.

Dying out of bees is a global problem now. The worst situation is in some regions of China. On internet one can find films showing that people have to pollinate plants by themselves because bees on some regions died out. In Syczuan, for example, fruit farmers, using special brushes made of hens’ feathers, bring dried out pollen taken out from male flowers into female flowers. Pear trees are 4 m tall, so pollinators climb them on ladders or on branches in order to reach the trees top. Pollination with a human hand is the most time-consuming element in production of hanyuadian pear trees, but also essential factor in the mid of the 80s of XX century.

Apiaries are disappearing also in America and Europe. In California, population of bee families have reduced in the last several years by 80 percent. There are very few bees in France. Its parliament was the first one to promote protection of this endangered species. The Polish Seym is the second one to be doing so in Europe.

In our country, in the 70s of XX century there were 2 million bee families, today there are less bee hives by nearly 800 thousand. – I used to have an apiary in the middle of a forest, around a field. Briefly speaking – ideal conditions, which resulted in big collections of honey. But only 24 hours were needed for 50 bees to die out in beehives. It was so in the year 2009. At that time nobody could explain me what had caused this mass bee extinction. Maybe a disease? Or maybe chemicals? – says a beekeeper from Malbork.

Indeed, for now, scientists did not manage to conclude what is the reason for the mass bee extinction. However, a lot of investigations prove that the main reason is using insecticides (chemical and micro-biological substances used to destroy harmful insects) for protection of plants.

The European Parliament started investigating this matter four years ago. In their report euro-deputies summoned the European Commission to carry out objective investigations concerning possibilities of appearing negative results of genetically modified organisms cultivation and monoculture for health of honey bees. The document proved that mass bee extinction may have a serious impact on food production in Europe. – I am glad that the European Parliament decided to deal with the problem of beekeeping in Europe and also enact a report concerning protection of honey bees health and challenges for the sector of beekeeping – said Janusz Wojciechowski after enacting the document. In the opinion of the euro-deputy of the Law and Justice party, the growing extinction of bees has an impact on food production and is a ‘dangerous tendency for agriculture, for biological balance and stability of environment.

An apiary on a roof or in a park

The pressure from the European Parliament made the European Commission introduce a temporary prohibition in 2013 concerning using some insecticides. It undoubtedly had an advantageous influence on environment but the problem of rebuilding the number of bees families was not solved. It seems that setting up apiaries in cities is a chance for bees survival.

According to investigations, about 60 percent of bees families survive in the cities of the USA, and at the same time on agricultural areas more than a half of bees are becoming extinct. – Not only is there a lack of a good base for bees in cities, but it is also warmer. But it is very important for bees, mainly during winter time – says Dr. Gąbka.

Tourists who visited Stockholm, London or New York, could see beehives on roofs. In Germany mini-apiaries are also set up near playgrounds. All this is done so that children could see these useful insects and families could live in an ecological environment. Where a bee is, there are a lot of flowers and lush greens there- experts remind.

In our cities there are also bees but it is difficult or sometimes impossible to set up apiaries. It is only a year since it has been easier to keep bees in the capital city. Earlier the binding law treated the honey insects in the same way as ….goats and pigs which can be kept 1 km away from housing estates.

In Warsaw the first apiary – in the beginning two beehives – was set up in 2011 on the roof of Regent Warsaw Hotel situated near Królewskie Łazienki park. According to the recent information, on the roof of a five-star hotel there are about 350 thousand bees. During the summer time, they can produce over 300 kg of honey.

It is just the honey from this hotel which was thoroughly investigated by specialists. The result was surprising. Firstly – it was stated that the urban honey is less polluted than the one which we can buy in supermarkets. Secondly – it turned out that the honey from the hotel is tastier than the honey from mono-cultural areas, that is, created on the basis of one plant, like rapeseed honey. Unfortunately, inhabitants of Warsaw will not find jars of honey ‘Łazienki Gold’ in a retail sale. For, honey is intended for the hotel.

A useful hobby

Urban apiaries are created by hobbyists. They do not buy beehives, bees or an essential equipment hoping for profits from the honey sale. They usually have two bees families. What they care about is a possibility of observing bees and being in a direct contact with nature. – Work with bees makes me relaxed and calm. It is really a nice and useful hobby. And what is important, it is available for everybody because only people who are allergic to bees venom should avoid them – says dr. Jakub Gąbka.

And what could MPs learn from their neighbours? – I ask in the end. – Human life and bees life differ from each other. However, we create more complicated societies than the ones which live in beehives – says the scientist and he adds: - But work organization which is among bees can be an example for us. Not only for politicians but also for all of us.

AA

„Niedziela” 34/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl