The honey bee is gone. I remember she was an everyday sight in my school when I was about seven. She was everywhere together with the butterflies and ladybirds 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. So much insecticides and pesticides are being used in the name of the country's strictly-guarded sterility and in keeping the neighbourhoods disease-free, but have their risks to wildlife ever been considered and measured in any way? Do we have to go that far in driving every habitat of the bees out of the country?
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? (Read A Case for Urban Beekeeping in Singapore)
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. We might have all the positive indicators for a robust economy, but aren't the vanishing bees, which are not only pollinators but also indicators of a healthy ecosystem, telling us how much we have gone out of sync with nature? I recalled this letter that was published in the local newspapers sometime back. The writer pointed out that despite the growing number of green landscapes, parks and gardens, little has been done to provide ecological support to the critical flora and fauna. Something has gone awry? How very true that "a city of gardens does not make a garden city"!
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.
I earnestly hope that ten years down the road, some things here will change to welcome the bees back. Our pre-school children will not merely learn the names of different insects from a pack of colorful rubber creatures purchased from the toy store (like my personal collection you see in this picture), the honey bee will hold more appeal than just some detestable stinging mosquito with yellow and black stripes, and parents will realize that it's not good enough for their kids to just know that honey is sold in glass jars alongside the strawberry jam and peanut butter on the supermarket shelves.
Can we have the honey bee back?
"If you care to go to school, go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow them to teach you their ways.” ~D. C. Jarvis, M.D.
Updated May 2014
1. Can We Start Keeping Bees in Singapore?
2. Who wants to start beekeeping in Singapore?
3. A Case for Urban Beekeeping in Singapore
4. Bee Removal in Singapore
5. John Smith's Posting on "Keeping Bees in Singapore"
6. Status of Honey in Singapore
7. In Search of Honey and Bees in Hong Kong
8. Pineapple honey and durian honey, two very unique monofloral honey from Malaysia.