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Eco@Africa

Much buzz about Berlin's bees

We need bees for our own survival, but bee populations all over the world are dying out. Two Berliners came up with a project to protect bees within the city by installing hives in public landmarks.

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Albert Einstein once famously said humans would survive no longer than four years in a world without bees. It was a grave prediction, and somewhat off the mark, particularly in this ever braver, newer world of ours.

But the fact remains that bees are assiduous pollinators and play a vital role in ensuring the growth of the crops on which we rely for our survival.

Yet they are at risk. A 2015 study conducted by the

International Union for the Conservation of Nature

(IUCN) last year said the rise of monolculures, use of insecticides and changing climate meant ten percent of Europe's 1,965 wild bee species were at threat of extinction.

In order to highlight the severity of the situation, two Berliners came up an ingenious idea. They proposed attaching hives to the roofs of some of the city's best-loved and most prolific landmarks, both in order to promote urban beekeeping, but more specifically to raise awareness of the deteriorating situation facing their cousins in the wild.

Wild bees in flight

Almost ten percent of Europe's wild bee species are at risk of extinction

Biologist Corinna Hölzer, who first proposed the model in 2010 after reading about a Parisian set designer who surreptitiously accommodated his bees on the roof of the city's opera, said it took her a while to convince Berlin's skeptics to get on board.

"We spent four months writing approach letters only to receive replies from managers and technicians saying 'no, we might get stung, or we might have swarms of bees in the canteens,' she told DW.

All about learning

But she persevered and eventually the parliament building and the city's cathederal agreed to the idea. Hölzer says one of the great things about the project, which is called "Berlin Summt!", or Berlin is buzzing, is the integral learning component.

"All people knew about bees was that they can sting and swarm.," she explained, adding that changing perceptions was part of the idea from the beginning. "We didn't set out to simply create good views for the beekeepers, but wanted them to talk to the public through media about the plight of wild bees."

Bee in a flower

Bees are master pollinators

Though she says the beekeepers sometimes get caught up in explaining the details of their honey, which is only available in the buildings on top of which it is made, the whole venture has been a success.

Everyone can be involved

As soon as the hives were up and running on the first two sites, everyone from the Staatsoper to the technical museum to the planetarium wanted to become part of this humming new community.

And although many have joined - Hölzer is selective - there is still a long way to go towards reversing the patterns of modern agriculture that have left the shadow of death over the inimitable black and yellow striped creatures that feed us.

The good thing is that you don't have to be a beekeeper or a farmer to contribute to the effort. You can simply ensure you plant the right flowers in your garden, or indeed your window box. And that way, you too, will be #doingyourbit for our environment.

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