Honeybees. The wild honeybee population this year is really small. We lost a couple hives at City Farm. And without bees, without pollinators–
Are there things people can do to preserve their hives? I know some people say it’s a pesticide and some people say its like a mite, a parasite.
Yeah, I’ve heard both of those things too, but no one really knows.
The next day, T borrowed one of the City Farm trucks and drove out to Chase Farm Park. He walked up the steep hill, put a palm on the plane tree trunk so huge he couldn’t get his arms all the way around it. This is a living being, he thought. He walked carefully in the mown grasses and clover and plantain, detouring for the occasional sprig of poison ivy, and noting the honeybees and sweat bees and cellophane bees feeding there; noting, too, the patinaed backs of defoliating Japanese beetles. He breathed in the sweet air.
T went home and sent a group text to farm volunteers, friends, siblings, and his two neighbors with large, intimidating-looking pit bulls. For the next three weeks, as quietly as possible, in darkness and daylight, they tore down houses burned out by neglect or foreclosed on by damp, and used their boards and pipes to make fences around the lots. KEEP OUT, the younger volunteers spraypainted on the quilts of wood scraps and wire. DANGER. UNSAFE. Cops did their part by ignoring the changes. Neighbors did theirs by casually walking past with Hippo and Olaf, whose heavy feet and swinging jowls made an additional barrier. BEWARE OF DOG, the kids spraypainted.
Within the walls, they first planted sunflowers and mustard greens and blue sheep fescue and bladder campion, to draw up lead and other heavy metals in the soil. At this stage, they chased the bees away rather than let them feed, taking turns walking up and down the rows, smelling hot greenery around them with whiffs of garbage and dryer sheets from over the fence, maybe smoking a blunt to keep away boredom and mosquitoes, picking beetles off the leaves and drowning them in the rain barrels. It wasn’t until the third summer that they planted half phytoremediating plants and half broadleaf woodland plants that bees and butterflies like: clover, yarrow, pleurisy flower, bee balm, lobelia and sage, with young swamp maples in each lot’s lowest corner. The scent of the gardens began to rise above the walls. People changed their routes home from work, booty calls and the store in order to walk past them.
The practice spread to North Providence and to Silver Lake, both of which had their share of empty lots and orphaned buildings. As long-distance travel became less common and less reliable, people began to consolidate where they were living; many of the houses thus vacated went to people displaced by flooding or people who hadn’t had a home for a long time, but some of them were in bad enough shape that it wouldn’t have been fair to ask anyone to live in them. The fences were lined with PVC tubes for carpenter bees and hanging gardens for food plants; lots with poor drainage and a history of mold problems held skunk cabbage, for fly pollinators, and alders, which like to grow with their feet wet.
In the 15th or so year, when enough had changed that who owned these lots, who had a right to them, was the last of anyone’s worries, the walls came down, or went skeletal. The gardeners staggered plantings of windbreak saplings according to predicted changes in temperature: willow, catalpa, hardy banana. Some of the trees overshot their growth in the carbon-thicker air, but others survived and lived well in a living net of flies and wasps and moths and butterflies and bees.