Long live the bees

For­get the Wizard – should Christchurch ratepay­ers pay 35 cents each to fund the salary of the town bee­keeper? Is he to bee or not to bee? That is the ques­tion.

Element - - Well Being - TE RADAR

Who’d be a bee? A life of un­ceas­ing toil as part of a col­lec­tive that col­lec­tively cares not a jot for your in­di­vid­u­al­ity, un­less you’re the rul­ing fe­male. But even the Queen’s cos­seted po­si­tion comes at a cost, as her pri­mary func­tion is to lay up to 2000 a day to main­tain the masses.

The in­di­vid­ual does come to the fore though when there is a threat to the hive. Re­gret­tably the bee’s de­fense is a kamikaze at­tack, which de­prives it not only of its stinger, but a goodly part of its ab­domen and di­ges­tive tract as well, thus caus­ing its death.

It’s a sim­i­larly de­mor­al­is­ing job for the poor old drones, the males whose sole task is to mate with the queen. It may sound glamorous, lolling about in a harem of him-bees, but the pro­cre­ative act is im­me­di­ately fa­tal, as his en­dophal­lus lit­er­ally ex­plodes from his body.

If a drone fails to mate and is still un­for­giv­ably alive at the ap­proach of win­ter then, along with the el­derly and the in­firm, he is un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously ejected from the hive to per­ish in the cold. There’s not too much fo­cus on com­pas­sion­ate wel­fare in a bee­hive. This may be the pri­mary rea­son for the name and style of our Par­lia­ment build­ing.

While we wouldn’t want to per­son­ally be a bee, we cer­tainly can’t do with­out them. With­out bees, sta­ple fruit and veg­etable crops would van­ish from su­per­mar­ket shelves. Al­ready in China a lack of bees in some ar­eas forces ap­ple farm­ers to te­diously, and ex­pen­sively, hand- pol­li­nate with paint­brushes. Here we can barely find enough peo­ple to pick fruit let alone pro­cre­ate it. I’m sure that some would ar­gue that with so many artists sup­pos­edly on the dole paint­ing pollen might be just the job for them.

We should all be wor­ried, as New Zealand’s bee

“There’s not too much fo­cus on com­pas­sion­ate wel­fare in a bee­hive. This may be the pri­mary rea­son for the name and style of our Par­lia­ment build­ing.”

num­bers – like those in the rest of the world – are fall­ing. This year’s wet win­ter killed a third of Bri­tain’s honey­bee colonies. In the US losses were 50%. Com­bined with the per­plex­ing is­sue of colony col­lapse the fu­ture of hon­ey­bees is far from sweet.

That’s why I’m wax­ing lyri­cal about Christchurch City coun­cilor Aaron Ke­own’s pro­posal that the city spend the queenly sum of 35 cents per ratepayer to em­ploy some­one in the charm­ingly me­dieval-sound­ing post of ‘town bee­keeper’.

Ad­mit­tedly, 35 cents per ratepayer adds up to $50,000 per year but this is no or­di­nary bee­keeper. Un­der Ke­own’s rather orig­i­nal plan, en­ti­tled “Plan Bee”, Christchurch res­i­dents would be en­cour­aged to turn their back­yards into lit­eral hives of ac­tiv­ity.

The Bee­keeper would mon­i­tor the health of th­ese city bees, make sure they’re treated to pre­vent the spread of dis­ease, and pro­mote knowl­edge about bees through the Coun­cil’s Bee Wise ed­u­ca­tion plan. They would also be re­spon­si­ble for look­ing af­ter our na­tive bees, who tend to live quiet, of­ten soli­tary lives do­ing not much at all. How Kiwi.

And where bet­ter than the Gar­den City to nur­ture the most es­sen­tial of the gar­den’s in­hab­i­tants? Given the price of honey, it might just be a smart in­vest­ment.

At 35 cents a year, one can hardly ac­cuse bees of be­ing a drain on ratepay­ers’ re­sources. They never need a day off, go­ing about their busi­ness like the mind­less drones the busi­ness bosses would like us all to be.

Nat­u­rally there was con­cern ex­pressed by the ratepay­ing lo­cals not only at the cost, but also about pub­lic safety from the sub­se­quent rise in bee num­bers. How­ever api­arist David Spice, who has teamed up with Ke­own, says bees are “gen­er­ally fairly placid un­til you ag­gra­vate them.”

Much like ratepay­ers it seems.

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