Earlier this week I had the pleasure of talking to several groups of kids about bees at the Second Avenue Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School.

Their theme for this year has been “Who is my neighbor? Learning to love like Jesus” and I was very happy to have the chance to talk about all the ways that I relate to bees and other pollinators as neighbors in our community.

Honey bees are symbolic of a perfect community in the way that they interact within their colonies. Each colony is what is called a super organism (some species of ants and termites are as well) and it means that though they are populated by individual insects, they each cannot survive without the health of the whole community.

I find this to be such a wonderful model for how communities can behave, with each individual knowing their job and doing it for the good of the whole. They understand that in order to thrive and survive, they must consider the health and safety of all, not just themselves.

“Every man for himself” is completely unheard of in a beehive. Partly because of their understanding of their dependency on each other, but also because they are mostly female, and we ladies know that working together is far better than working against each other.

Bees and other pollinators are also important as neighbors within our natural world because of how reliant we are on their pollinating skills for much of our food and for the lushness of the blooming plants and trees that surround us.

One third of the food we eat depends on pollinators, so I don’t think you can get anymore neighborly reliance than that.

I enjoyed asking the kids about how they thought we could be better neighbors to bees in return, and true to the wisdom of children, they would often answer exactly right; plant more flowers and use less chemicals.

It warmed my heart to see the children realize how much we depend on bees and how much they depend on us. It was also nice to see the adults in the room understanding it as well.

I’ve recently been questioning the logic behind some of our civilized habits in our natural world, and I’d like to discuss some ways that we might think more neighborly.

For weeks, I have admired the Queen Anne’s Lace and other wildflowers that bloom along the edge of my road as I walk my dogs.

More than once I vowed to come back out and cut a bouquet to enjoy inside, even though I always end up feeling a bit guilty about that, knowing that I have taken potential food away from the bugs in order to temporarily make my home a little happier.

One day last week, I looked out the front door to notice that a big tractor mower was chomping its way over the roadside easement, decimating the blooms as it went, and I ran out to at least “save” some of the Queen Anne’s Lace that hadn’t yet been mowed.

Save is a silly way to put it, of course. I picked them so that I could enjoy them for a bit longer but, once cut, the blooms would obviously die either way. I figured I could at least honor their beauty rather than let them be chewed to bits.

They don’t mow this stretch of road often, which makes it all the more confusing to me when they do. What is the point of a random and rare haircut, when all that is removed is the only stuff that is providing any visual beauty at all in the scene?

The process always leaves the area scarred by ugly ruts cut into the soil, the vegetation mangled and scraggly at best, and any modicum of beauty that comes with the weeds that bloom there completely destroyed.

What is the least bit civilized or logical about that?

If we want our roadsides to be attractive and groomed, why not encourage the pretty parts and eliminate the ugly parts instead. The guy being paid to mow it all down could be paid to pick up the trash and manicure the ugly stuff rather than the rough and sweeping “solution” that actually seems to solve very little.

The Pollinator Plots that have been instigated on Rome Floyd Parks & Recreation properties are a perfect example of the benefit of planting and managing more blooms and eliminating the expense and gas-guzzling, chemical-laden habit of frequent mowing.

Wild and beautiful plots of flowers are far more attractive than manicured green lawns, in my book, so why not try to figure out how to utilize that practice in other areas in our community? I have been thinking about this for a while and I believe that there are numerous areas where we could create beautiful and beneficial blooming fields that are much more appealing and more neighborly for our beneficial bugs.

While serving as first lady of the United States in the late 1960s, Ladybird Johnson introduced revolutionary beautification concepts that included planting roadsides with wildflowers to improve their appearance.

The ideas were most successful but they involved many people doing their part to plant and maintain the projects, something that required people to work for the good of the whole of their communities. Sound familiar?

The week of June 21-27 we will be celebrating National Pollinator Week, and there will be various activities focused on remembering how important these mere bugs are to our world. Follow the Bee City USA-Rome Facebook page to find out what is happening.

Let’s take the opportunity to think about how we can all work together to make a better and more beautiful world for ourselves and the critters that we call neighbors. The idea is simple: plant more flowers, save more bees.

How can we possibly go wrong with that blooming logic?

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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