Photo by Alex Buxton
We all share a common issue: no bees = no life. Save the Bees Australia aims to empower others to create change in their world, just like we, at Murals for Change, encourage everyone to use art as a tool for transformation. This September we're working together to empower, uplift, educate and inspire our community on how they can make a difference to bees and their ecosystems.
Bees and humanity face a major challenge from insecticides, herbicides, industrial-scale monoculture food farming and habitat fragmentation. Together we can tackle these issues and Save the Bees. Simon Mulvany is the founder and power house behind Save the Bees Australia, responsible for initiating ongoing change for bees focusing on education, action and activism to inspire others to do what’s both necessary and possible.
Since the beginning, Save the Bees has saved over 400 colonies and has evolved to become the voice of bees Australia wide. For the month of September (but actually always) we’re putting our energy into amplifying Simon’s mission and inviting you to contribute however you can to saving the bees!
Murals for Change & Save the Bees are collaborating to release a limited series of ethically sourced sunflower seeds (featuring our iconic sunflower) to help you create change in your own backyard.
SIMON, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO SAVE THE BEES AND WHY YOU'VE DEDICATED YOUR LIFE TO INCITING CHANGE FOR THESE INCREDIBLE INSECTS?
I loved Bees from an early age. They filled me with curiosity, awe and wonder and they still do. I was particularly attracted to their ability to collaborate in large numbers in harmony with nature without a hierarchy. Witnessing honey bees extract from and enhance nature simultaneously confirmed to me humanity has it wrong. Bees can teach us how communities can thrive.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE WORLD OF BEES AT THE MOMENT? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST THREATS BEES CURRENTLY FACE?
Though People seem to be more aware of the importance of bees than ever, bees are still suffering more than ever. Globally our food system has become more industrialised reliant on pesticides that kill bees. Particularly thanks to the Flowhive beekeeping has grown in popularity.
CAN YOU SHARE A BRIEF HISTORY OF YOUR ORGANISATION, SAVE THE BEES AUSTRALIA?
I started Save the Bees Australia (www.beethecure.com) in 2013 . I knew bees were dying and under threat all over the world – in my area they were still being exterminated by pest controllers. I put twenty hives together and contacted the local pest controllers and shire to let them know that I would save bees for free. In one week I had fifty calls. I teamed up with a retired woodworker Alan and since then we have rehomed over 600 colonies of bees. I shared my passion on social media and the local paper did a few stories on me.
As my network grew I became more aware of atrocities that were occurring within Australia. I was compelled to expose these issues with the public. Many of my articles went viral. Topics such as ‘Mass bee die offs’ , ‘hidden insecticide spraying programs’, ‘honey laundering (blends fake and imported from China sold at supermarkets)’.
#savethebeesaustralia campaigns have been incredibly effective in convincing consumers to buy direct from the beekeepers, getting residents to demand councils stop spraying pesticides and informing consumers about the dangers of agricultural chemicals such as Glysophate not only to bees but to consumers of contaminated food.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THERE WERE NO BEES?
No bees, no pollination, no food.
“It is crucial that we help protect the native species and that we keep honey bees, respectfully and responsibly.”
— Simon Mulvany
Photo by James Geer
DOES AUSTRALIA HAVE NATIVE BEE SPECIES? WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT THESE LITTLE GUYS?
Australia has over 1500 native bees – the majority are solitary bees which means they live alone or in small families.
Some indigenous bees like the blue banded bee are superior pollinators as they are able to utilise buzz pollination. Some flowers hide their pollen inside tiny capsules. A Blue Banded Bee can grasp a flower of this type and shiver her flight muscles, causing the pollen to shoot out of the capsule. She can then collect the pollen for her nest and carry it from flower to flower, pollinating the flowers. Quite a few of our native Australian flowers require buzz pollination!
HOW DOES CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECT BEES AND THEIR EXTENDED ECOSYSTEM?
Some insects like the honeybee have adapted to this early shift in the flowering date of plants, by advancing their seasonal flight activity. However, the responses of individual species vary and are unknown for many other bee species. Unless bees have made the shift alongside the flowers, there could be a decline in pollination and a lack of food sources for certain bee species. And without the flowers getting pollinated, plants lose a chance at reproducing in a given year.
HOW DOES OUR CURRENT FOOD SYSTEM AND AGRICULTURAL HABITS IMPACT BEES?
Our fossil-fuel based industrial agriculture contributes to greenhouse-gas emissions in several distinct ways: directly through the fuel burnt by agricultural machinery, during food processing, and by transporting the average ounce of food over a thousand miles "from the farm to the table"; indirectly in the manufacture of its synthetic inputs, e.g. of nitrogen fertilizer from nitrogen and natural gas; and finally by breaking down the organic matter in the soil into carbon dioxide (during large-scale tillage and as a consequence of excessive synthetic inputs), which is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. In addition, massive amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2) are released during large-scale industrial cattle farming.
Industrialised farming has been disastrous for bees. The massive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides changed the whole fabric of agriculture and farming, as the agrochemical industry persuaded farmers that they could make more money by planting large fields with a single highly profitable crop and by controlling weeds and pests with chemicals.
If bees thrive we thrive. Fortunately, there is a viable and sustainable alternative to industrial agriculture. It consists of communities adopting agricultural techniques, based on traditional practices,. The ecologically oriented farming techniques are known variously as #organic #permaculture .
WHAT SHOULD WE ALL BE DOING TO SUPPORT BEES? WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE NATIVE PLANTS IN ABUNDANCE FOR BEES?
We need to protect pristine indigenous habitats. Many indigenous bees have a symbiotic relationship to indigenous plants.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
WHERE CAN OUR COMMUNITY CONNECT WITH YOUR CAUSE?