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Dancing with Bees

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A naturalist’s passionate dive into the world of bees of all stripes--what she has learned about them, and what we can learn from them


Brigit Strawbridge Howard was shocked the day she realised she knew more about the French Revolution than she did about her native trees. And birds. And wildflowers. And bees. The thought stopped her—quite literally—in her tracks. But that day was also the start of a journey, one filled with silver birches and hairy-footed flower bees, skylarks, and rosebay willow herb, and the joy that comes with deepening one’s relationship with place. Dancing with Bees is Strawbridge Howard’s charming and eloquent account of a return to noticing, to rediscovering a perspective on the world that had somehow been lost to her for decades and to reconnecting with the natural world. With special care and attention to the plight of pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees, and what we can do to help them, Strawbridge Howard shares fascinating details of the lives of flora and fauna that have filled her days with ever-increasing wonder and delight.


PREFACE: REALISATIONS



I was quite shocked the day I realised I knew more about the French Revolution than I did about our native trees. The thought stopped me, quite literally, in my tracks.



I was in my early forties at the time, and remember thinking, in my state of shock, that I was lamentably no more aware of life outside the bubble that was my world than the inner-city children I'd read about who don't know that milk comes from a cow, or that an acorn grows into an oak tree. In fact, it wasn't quite that bad, but I was alarmed nevertheless that I could not confidently name more than half a dozen of the trees I had just walked past on my way to work. What about the rest? Which was which? I tried frantically to remember the names of all the trees I did know, working my way mentally through the alphabet from 'ash' to 'yew' and attempting to visualise the bark, twigs, and leaves of any of them. It was a sobering exercise.



The shock for me was not so much that I was unable to name the trees, as you don't need to know the given name of something to love and appreciate it. Rather, I was shaken by the fact that I had stopped noticing them. And it wasn't just the trees I'd stopped noticing. My three-times-weekly walk to work took me up and over the Malvern Hills from West Malvern to Great Malvern, along well-trodden paths edged with wild flowers; past large expanses of tussocky grass, bare ground, and low-growing shrubs; through areas of sparse vegetation amongst ancient granite stone; above the tree line, and there, beneath a ceiling of vast, ever-changing skies. But I was so preoccupied with the chattering in my own mind, and getting to work on time, that I was oblivious to the abundant and diverse wildlife afforded by this wonderful mosaic habitat that surrounded me.



How had I fallen so out of touch with the natural world that I now noticed the changing seasons more by how many layers of clothing I needed to wear to keep me warm (or cool) than by how many leaves the trees were wearing? When had I stopped seeing what colour they were, where in the sky the sun was setting, and which wild flowers were blooming in the hedgerows?



What had happened to the little girl who yearned, with every cell in her body, that she might close her eyes one night and wake up the next morning in Moominvalley, where she could and would sit on the edge of a bridge and dangle her feet in the river whilst Snufkin piped in the spring, then look at all the new and exciting wild flowers through a real, grown-up magnifying glass with the Hemulen? Where had gone the slightly older child who used to dream of living with Laura, Jack, and Black Susan in their 'Little House in the Big Woods' of Wisconsin, all safe and tucked up in their trundle beds whilst the wind and the wolves howled through the night outside their windows? And where was the curious ten-year-old who would have given her right arm, not to mention a year's supply of sherbet dips and Black Jacks, to spend just one day in the shoes of the young naturalist Gerald Durrell? Did that little girl still exist? If so, I needed to find her.



I scanned back through the years, searching for clues, wondering if there had been some particular event or moment when the child who used to be me had quietly drifted away. Having rediscovered a perspective on the world that had somehow been lost to me for the past three decades, I was determined not to let it slip away again. I vowed to nurture this fragile thing - this reawakening, this precious treasure - to help it grow and become fully conscious once again, and to protect it from whatever ill wind had caused it to bury itself under the blankets of my psyche, where it had hibernated and hidden for all these years.


Preface: Realisations

Introduction: The Honey Trap

1. Spring on the Wing

2. A Nest of One's Own

3. What's in a Name?

4. The Boys Are Back in Town

5. Bees Behaving Badly

6. The Upside-Down Bird

7. The Cabin by the Stream

8. Cuckoo, Cuckoo

9. On Swarms and Stings

10. To Bee, or Not to Bee

11. Seeking the Great Yellow Bumblebee, Part 1

12. Seeking the Great Yellow Bumblebee, Part 2

13. On Bovey Heathfield

14. In Praise of Trees

15. Sedgehill, a Natural History

16. Cotton Weavers

17. Time for Tea

18. Evergreen

19. Amongst the Snowdrops

Epilogue. Reflections

Acknowledgements

List of Illustrations

Selected Bibliography

Index

Subjects

Informations

Published by
Published 05 September 2019
Reads 0
EAN13 9781603588508
Language English
Document size 1892 MB

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