Victory for Queen Lori and the bees

Wow, it’s mid June and I haven’t posted anything since April!  I’m deep into pollen collecting; it’s taking all my time and energy right now. Everything is early this year!

But now to other great news–my bee-buddy, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker, Queen Lori), has been on a grand tour, promoting her new, fabulous and informative book on bees, Victory Gardens for Bees. Check out her super blogsite for postings of her experiences. This is a great time of the year to be reading and learning about pollinators since many of the plants mentioned in Lori’s book are blooming right now. I find it such a delight  to read about a bee or a blossom and then actually see one in the flesh!  There is so much useful, practical information in this book–about our native bee species, about native and near-native plants, about gardens and garden design, about natural ways of controlling pests, about easy ways for all of us to help pollinators–and, it’s Canadian! Yay, Lori!!! Need a good summer read? This is it. Completely enjoyable and yet so informative!

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celebrating pollen with Lori Weidenhammer and Artstarts

I had the great honor and pleasure of sharing 4 workshops on pollen this past weekend with artist and author, Lori Weidenhammer.  Lori gave me a copy of her new book, Victory Gardens for Bees, which I was thrilled to share with workshop participants. This beautiful and timely book will be on the shelves very soon. It is a fantastic compendium of gardening  information with the express aim of helping our native pollinators. The book is lushly illustrated with stunning photos, and it is a delight to hear Lori’s voice come through in the text.

 

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The free weekend workshops Lori and I facilitated were offered through Artstarts at the New Westminster Quay location and at Artstarts downtown Vancouver.  We drew, stamped, collaged and embellished bees and flowers and made postcards and matching buttons.  Not only did we celebrate flowers, bees and pollen but we even got to celebrate the 20th birthday of ArtStarts four times!!!!

Looking at flower parts and pollen with a loupe. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Dark purple pollen of anemone.   Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Peering at the stamens and pistil of a cherry blossom. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Hairy-belly bee postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Artists of all ages participated – even Moms and Dads! Here’s a beautiful bee and flower themed postcard and button made by a Dad working along side his children. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Beautiful bee, flower and sunshine postcard and button made by a young participant. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Young artist proudly shows off her queen bee postcard, with golden finger-print pollen!  Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

Lots of food for bees in this garden postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

 

A beautiful button of a native bee made by a young artist. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Dissected cherry blossom postcard and button. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Working on honey comb-themed button! Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

For exploration and drawing, a selection of flowers in bloom right now . Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Pink pollen and bees! Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

Self-portrait with super bees and flowers! There’s even a butterfly in this garden postcard. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

It’s great to see parents participate in the workshop. Here’s a beautifully drawn card and button made by a Mom working along side her own young artists. Photo: Lori Weidenhammer

bee-ing (a)part

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Just last week, the Richmond Art Gallery held the final piece of public programming related to the present exhibition. A panel discussion, entitled  Bee-ing Part of the Solution, was the centerpiece of the event for me.

Highlights: 

Our high-powered bee expert, Dr. Elizabeth Elle from Simon Fraser University gave an engaging and informative presentation on native pollinators.  Her advice, “Plant Flowers” offered the audience an easy and practical way to help all pollinators. Even pots of pollinator-friendly plants on the front porch or deck are helpful, she stated emphatically and showed us a slide of her small but blossom-packed front garden!

Insight: Dr. Elle suggested that we do not have to focus primarily on native species of plants, but to be wary of invasive species–these plants (however helpful they seem to be, like Himalayan blackberry), eventually create a monoculture, crowding out other species of plants. And of course, monocultures are part of our larger agricultural and environmental problem.

Whenever I think of planting flowers, I think of Brian Campbell – garden expert par excellence and bee teacher! Brian’s presentations are always interesting. He has a gentle way of talking, always full of seriousness and humour at the same time; and I invariably want to stop and to listen.

Insight: Brian gave a considered response to a question from one of the audience members, Lori Weidenhammer. She wanted to know how we might switch our intensive focus on “saving the bees” away from the honeybee and onto other pollinators without upsetting beekeepers. Brian said that historically we have asked far too much of the honeybee, and if she were to be returned her to her rightful place as one player, one part, within the complex web of pollinator diversity, we would be helping not only the honeybee but all pollinators and the environment in general.

Professor Nancy Holmes, (writer, poet and creative writing educator), involved with diverse pollinator projects through UBC, at Okanagan, began her presentation with a beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, and brought the tone of the event around from the realm of science to that of art-making. I am taking the liberty of reproducing this lovely little poem here:

“TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.” 

It is the ‘reverie’ which art appeals to, I think. Certainly it is for me. For to create something, whether it be a meadow, a poem, a visual art piece, or a  cleaner environment, we require imagination. This is our singular ability.

I had the privilege of being part of this panel discussion too, and my presentation was related to the artwork I have on display the gallery at the moment: “not by chance alone,” the large bee project; the small Charles Butler piece, “profitable as a bee,” and the “gilded, golden, glad,” pollen tribute to Dorothy Hodges. Brian Campbell has very graciously posted my presentation on the blog portion of his website, (www.thebeeschool.ca) so instead of reprinting it now, I will discuss my ideas on pollinators and the role of art, in future posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

bee school

This past weekend, I attended beekeeping classes, given by master beekeeper Brian Campbell (Blessed Bee Apiaries).  The course was interesting, informative and engaging. Brian is an excellent instructor. He’s exceedingly knowledgeable, has a gentle and  respectful manner for his students and his charges (the bees), and he has a great sense of humour! A weekend well spent with theory and practice. We still have the practicum to look forward to, more first hand experience on handling honeybees!

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We even got to witness a new drone bee emerge out of its cell. Very cool indeed.IMG_0581




 

all pollinators

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I attended a wonderful workshop yesterday given by artist Lori Weidenhammer. Lori’s workshops are part of the CULTIVATE exhibition at the Roundhouse.

Lori has been researching honeybees and native pollinators for more than 6 years. She knows about bees, she knows about gardening and plant species. She has an incredible aesthetic sense and a serious commitment to community education. This is the second time I’ve participated in one of Lori’s workshops (cf my post here August 4, 2013 “free fall”). I enjoy learning about the environment from Lori and I enjoy the art making that is an integral component of her workshops. Yesterday we made handmade paper into which we embedded flower petals and seeds. The paper will be made into little cards that can be given away as gifts. They are beautiful on their own.  More importantly though, the embedded seeds can be planted in the garden–a small encouragement to help our native pollinators!

paper-seeds

Lori spoke about the need for evidence on the relationship of honeybees, our native pollinators and the availability of forage. How much forage do honeybees need? Is there aggressive competition between honeybees and other pollinators? Are we favoring honeybees to the detriment of solitary bees and other native pollinators that are also in serious trouble? Should honeybees be treated like pigs and chickens, ie. food sources, or should bees have a different status?  Important questions.

free fall

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Bees have been in the media quite a bit in the last few months, both on the television news and in the papers.  Just the other day, I read an article in the Globe & Mail on the plight of bees and monarch butterflies (“Honey bees and monarch butterflies: why their numbers are in free fall”). The article cites several possible reasons for the decline in populations of bees: neonicotinoid pesticides, varroa mites, unfavorable weather conditions, etc., but no reporting agency is able (or willing) to say “definitively” this is the cause, or better, these are the causes for bee population decline. The situation certainly is not a simple one, but I get the feeling from reading this article (and others)  that the bottom line is always the dollar. For example, in response to a call from Canadian beekeeper associations to ban the use of systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids, (an action that was already taken by the European Union)  the Ontario Grain Farmers association CEO protested that such a “knee-jerk reaction” would jeopardize 2%-13% of their annual gross income from crops such as soy, canola and corn. The same CEO goes on to say that we mustn’t base our decisions on emotions, but on science. So, would this same CEO say that Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency does not function as a “science-based” agency?   The HCPMR Agency noted that bee deaths in Southern Ontario and Quebec coincided with the corn-planting season. Was this a plain and simple emotional reaction from them?  No scientific basis? Further, would this same CEO say that the European Union’s moratorium on pesticide use was also based on hearsay and anecdotal information?

I’m glad that important environmental issues, like that of the bees, are in the media, but I get frustrated when reading about the workings of corporations and about our consumer-based economies. This is an emotional reaction, without a doubt, but I search for ways to make changes, even small ones, starting with myself.

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I attended a fantastic workshop yesterday, led by two Vancouver-based artists, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker), and Rebecca Graham. The workshop was called “Tapestry of the Senses.” Using natural materials—flowers, reeds and grasses, we created designs on the pavement in front of the Roundhouse Community Centre with Lori, and learned how to weave with willow, ivy and flag with Rebecca. The experience was enriching and beautiful on its own, but the intention of the artists was to encourage the participants to consider our environment and to protect the biodiversity of our communities. Both Lori and Rebecca are very knowledgeable and it was a delight to learn about plants, and to receive practical information that would help us to encourage the proliferation and flourishing of our pollinators and to protect the environments of the creatures with whom we share our planet.

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what, then

“What, then calls me into question most radically?

These are the beginning words of a paragraph in Maurice Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community – one of the books on my Bibliography: the return project list. As I was browsing through the book, reading snippets, looking through the chapters and searching for a place in which to place an inscribed rose petal, Blanchot’s question caught my eye – especially as he asks this question under the subheading of “Someone Else’s Death.” Intriguing concepts Blanchot puts forward – that of death, of witnessing, and their relationship to identity and community.

Blanchot writes the first part of the Unavowable Community in response to Jean-Luc Nancy’s work, The Inoperable Community. The thought of literally ‘returning’ a fragment of Nancy text back into Blanchot’s book – in the form of an incribed rose petal, made me smile.