Our half-acre of organically managed gardens is surrounded by barren lawns and pavement. A few slivers of overgrown, neglected brush are the only other visible sanctuaries for non-human-centric life.
Because of this urban isolation, it's been an education to observe the exponential growth of diversity. During each successive season, we see an increasingly exotic array of spiders, beetles, nematodes, worms and scuttling, anonymous creatures in and above the soil. In the air, flitting, buzzing beings hover and float, making their way from blossom to blossom. Some are clearly bumblebees. Some are true honey bees. Most are much smaller native bee and fly species.
We watch, entranced, as they hum along at midday or meander late in the afternoon. As the season progresses, our flying friends visit fruit and berry blossoms, flowering herbs and vegetable blooms. They seem to adore companion plants, especially thyme, oregano, basil, valerian, rue and mints.
In addition to the myriad reports about Colony Collapse Disorder, we have bee-keeping friends who share news about the failing health of their hives. Each winter, fewer survive despite our friends' tender, loving care.
Although researchers haven't isolated a single smoking gun, decreased plant diversity and the unabating onslaught of pesticides are definitely contributing factors to bees' woes. Such a complex problem means there's no easy solution. Distressing news for anyone who raises food for themselves or others.
I rest a bit easier, though, because anecdotal evidence suggests that in our little corner of the universe, our pollinating friends seem to have found an oasis.