Your recent absences have become
The late spring evenings are no longer
Alive with the industry of your approach,
And the flowers in the hanging baskets
On the high street fidget with uncertainty.
We know that something is wrong, and
So we call a meeting in the public library, where
We trace your ancestry across
The monarchies of a golden past;
Hidden in dusty tomes and sticky catalogues
As we carefully map out the
Richness of your species, placing them
Into statistical bins that we categorise
As familiar genres.
Your range, social behaviours, and
Nesting habits are well known to us.
We have even begun to stockpile
Your favourite flowers – a belated apology
For when you return.
As the pages continue to turn our
Initial excitement at uncovering your
Past begins to sour as we enter
You have gone into the mountains.
And you will not return.
The measurements that we made
Reveal a truth that was always there to see;
And so, we curse our inaction and leave
The library, stumbling out into a still
And silent night.
This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found a dramatic decline of 14 wild bee species across the north-eastern United States.
Bees and other pollinating insects play an essential role in ecosystems, with approximately a third of all food production depending on their pollination. In recent decades, with agricultural expansion and land-use change, there have been notable bee and pollinator declines documented across Europe and North America, which has serious implications for global food production. However, while studies have highlighted widespread bee declines, there has been a relative lack of detailed information on local communities and individual species.
In this new study, researchers analysed 119 wild bee species within New Hampshire, USA, over 125 years (1891–2016) using data from local museum records. By analysing characteristics such as habitat preferences, elevation, and latitude as well as social behaviour over this time period, the researchers found that 14 species of wild bees were declining at a statistically significantly rate. Of these 14 species, seven of them also demonstrated habitat shifts towards higher elevations and more northern latitudes. This is consistent with other research that has previously shown many non-migratory species are moving further towards the poles because of global warming. With the continuation of climate change, monitoring the habitat shifts in these wild bees will be important to help with appropriate landscape management, crop production and conservation policies.
An audio version of this poem can be heard here: