Honey I’m Home: Amsterdam’s Plan to Save the Bees

Many previously overlooked, overgrown, small, sunburnt patches of grass, are now being transformed into areas of cultivation for the benefit of the dwindling bee population in Amsterdam, as ecologists working for the Holland city have discovered “insect hotels,” that require minimal space and can now be seen along major highways and lively transportation hubs, such as Sloterdijk Train Station, as experts hope that these buzzing insects will check in to their hotels and stay for a long time.

     Closer to home, alarming numbers were discovered after a recent study by the University of Vermont, unveiling that there was a steep 23 percent decrease within the short span of five years from 2008-2013 of the national bee population. These threatened regions include some of the largest areas of the United States, such as California, the Pacific Northwest, and along the Mississippi River Valley.

     Much like the dire situation in the United States, the city of Amsterdam has recently implemented a $38.5 million dollar sustainability fund to foster an environment that promotes the reproduction and wellbeing of bees.

     This economic action was taken in response to the staggering two-thirds of the 300 bee species in Holland that are currently endangered.

     The calls for concern have reached government officials in the Netherlands, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geert Timmerman, shared the government’s environmentally conscious goal, that was determined on behalf of public health officials and ecologists four short years ago, as lawmakers and civilians hope to have at least half of the public green areas growing native plants that will flourish in the cool climate of the country which is influenced by the North Sea.

     “Insects are very important because they’re the start of the food chain. When it goes well with the insects, it also goes well with the birds and mammals. Our strategy is to when we design a park, we use native species but also the species that give a lot of flowering and fruit for bees,” Timmermans said.

     As for private institutions and land, many businesses and citizens are heavily encouraged to avoid using pesticides, and instead, rely on natural, organic remedies for agricultural purposes.

     As popular as rooftops are for entertainment scenes such as restaurants and lounges areas, the clever innovation of green rooftops are beginning to find a home on the tops of many buildings in the city, that are also furthering the development of climate control by reducing heating and cooling systems indoors.

     An excellent example is the Zoku Hotel, that is known for its home-grown rooftop garden as integration practices have catalyzed the collision of technological advancements and nature, including the growth of vegetables, moss, and endangered shrubs.

     Zoku’s Brand and Concept Manager, Veerle Donders, also boasts about the addition of the widely talked about, “insect hotels,” which are small wooden structures with drilled holes penetrating the sides of the box to allow for bug and insect nesting, a perfect place for bees to make honeycombs.

     “People will stay here hugging a pillow and say that they don’t want to leave, that they don’t want to go into town. They also say that all of the nature eases their minds from the stress of city life,” Donders said.

     As for the action taken locally by residents of the larger area of Amsterdam, most homes have now removed an immediate 16-inch path of pavement beginning from the exterior walls of their homes, and with this nearly two-foot space, most neighborhoods are advised by local community ecologists as to what will thrive in their vicinity. Most inhabitants within the area also house the widely accepted process of fist-sized holes within a home’s outer wall, that can be used as potential nests for both birds and bats.

     Thus, great strides have been made in the efforts to reverse the consistent decrease of bees in the 19th century, being a topic of growing concern since 1950, as 66 percent of the bee species in the country are on the red list, therefore, endangered.

     Whereas the diversity of wild bee and honey bee species in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, have increased by a whopping 45 percent since 2000 due to environmentally mindful practices.

     These promising numbers coincide with a 2015 survey in the city that verified the 21 new bee species that were unexpectedly discovered as many threats that jeopardize the growth of these populations have been actively curbed, such as urbanization, that expands agriculture and deprives the bees of places to pollinate, lack of beekeepers, the convenience of fertilizers and pesticides, in addition to, invasive pests that damage green spaces.

     Given the pollination dilemma, Ecology Professor at Wageningen University, has made it his mission to propose a pollinator strategy to the Dutch government, that aims to resuscitate the meek populations of bees, butterflies, and insects, eventually exceeding 75 percent of the nation’s food crop.

     However, Professor Keijin admits that this is an ambitious proposal, a task that will require tremendous effort on behalf of all invovled.

     “Sadly, there is no silver-bullet solution,” Klejin said.

     Regardless of the situation and uncertainty pertaining to possible solutions, many concerned citizens such as the founder of Honey Highway, Deborah Post, pose as beacons of light in such a dismal situation, as Deborah initially chose to make a change when bees in her rural apiary, 40 miles southwest of Amsterdam at Bijen Farm, began to die. This transformation sparked the planting of wildflowers along the sides of railways and major roadways amidst the bleak gravel and grass.

     “I noticed that I couldn’t do anything about most of the problems facing bees, but I saw that there were not enough flowers and I can personally sow wildflowers. It’s simple. I want to see more routes in the country covered, and I hope that this can also spread internationally for the sake of the environment and our bees.”

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