The honey bee is gone. I remember she was an everyday sight in my school when I was about seven. She was everywhere in the compound, the field, and even the canteen. But as the years went by, with the country’s burgeoning population and rapid urbanisation, it became harder and harder to encounter the honey bees. Today, they all seem to have flat-out disappeared.
We have advanced much in economic growth and progress but at the same time have also inflicted much degradation to the biodiversity of our natural environment. Do we also really have to trade economic success for every bit of our connection with the nature, woods, ferns, birds and bees? I must say whenever a bee nest is sighted, we just look so bad having to resort to hiring the pest control company to exterminate and remove it by deadly chemical sprays. Do we have to go that far in driving every habitat of the bees out of the country?
Let’s go beyond the pursuit of economic growth, the fervour of keeping up with the rat race, chasing of careers, money, the furious debate over shrinking population, freedom of speech, immigration laws, and quarrelling over which political party to support. Give us some real encounter with the nature for our children and our children’s children. Help them turn to nature, let them walk the grass, admire the greenery, touch a tender flower, rest the honey bee on their palms, and be inspired by the creatures of the air and their vital roles in the ecosystem. Our generation must experience life beyond the digital rush that buzzes the latest mobile gadgets, virtual reality games, and the ever-growing network of online friends. Inviting the bees back probably would be stung by much opposition from all sides, but has anyone here ever considered the value of discovering the ways of the bees, their hive as a super-organism, and the principles of the honey bee community which all can have a positive impact on our children’s mindset, perspectives of life and the society, character building, views on politics and our communities.
Is it really not possible to educate people about living harmoniously with the buzzing creatures and managing the fear of being stung? I wonder if it is even a relevant question to ask here. But if modern, highly urbanised cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York can experience roof-top beekeeping, why can’t Singapore? If they can do it, why can’t we?
There seems to be a no-ending discovery of urban concrete jungles buzzing with beekeeping activities on the rooftop. The number of urban rooftop beekeepers seems to be rising rapidly all over the world after the news that honeybees are dying by the millions of the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which experts have attributed to multiple causes such as pesticides, diseases and parasites.
I’m surprised that a socio-cultural organization that promotes local eating and the reduction of food carbon footprint has found a platform for the honeybees on the rooftop of a 14-storey building in one of the world’s most densely populated cities, Hong Kong. Nothing is too unlikely, I supposed when it comes to doing something meaningful to protect the environment. Cosmopolitan Brooklyn, the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, saw hundreds of residents inspired by the plight of bees and climbing to their rooftops to keep and help save the bees. I believe when the authorities reversed a long-standing ban on urban beekeeping in 2010, more New Yorkers revelled in celebrations than grimaced with disapproval. Perhaps what is most delightful is the honey bee farm atop a building in most posh and expensive Ginza district at the heart of the Tokyo that houses trendy stores such as the Matsuya department store, Gucci, Apple. Etc. The honey produced there is used to make cakes and pastries sold at famous patisseries and confectioneries.
Rooftop beekeeping in Singapore may sound out of this world for most people (especially when more integrated resorts, iconic modern architecture, Formula One races, casinos are springing up all over), but there are too many cases in point to prove that beekeeping is a hobby that anyone can endeavour even for those dwelling in the most crowded city. Considering the amount of flora and the number of high rise apartments and tall skyscrapers in Singapore, the potential rooftop food production and beekeeping appears to be tremendous. Also, there is a growing recognition that honeybees living in cities tend to produce more and better honey than those kept in the countryside and rural hives. With summer all year round, the honeybees will always be busy and we would be enjoying a constant flow of nectar harvested from the nectar and pollen rich flowers and plants in the nature reserves, designated parks, community gardens, and housing estates. Make Singapore a green oasis for the honey bee, educate the people on the importance of biodiversity and help them overcome the fear of the master pollinator of our ecosystem. And make beekeeping lawful, bring back a slice of nature to the urban sprawl and into our lives, so that we city dwellers can also tend our own hives, don netted hoods and white jumpsuits, stack up beehives dripping with honey, crank the centrifugal machine, and eat our own local, raw and unpasteurised glistening golden liquid made in Singapore. What a jubilant day this will be for all nature lovers, bee fans, and honey enthusiasts!