It’s estimated that there are some 80 -100 million domesticated honeybee hives in the world. As each hive can have as little as 10,000 bees and sometimes as many as 60,000 bees, that means there are 1 -2 trillion bees being kept for their food and pollination abilities. There are probably about 50% more bees living in the wild. That is a lot of bees! In the UK we have over 250 different types of bee (25 species of the bumble bee; 224 species of the solitary bee; and 1 honey bee species). Pollinators such as bees are estimated to add £600 million annually to the value of UK crops though increased yield. Bumblebees can beat their wings up to 11,500 times a minute.
Now you might by now bee beeginning to think I have beecome beesotted with bees. Well I haven’t, but bees seem to have been an ever present element of my life last week. As I walked Dylan last Monday, I came across a cloud of bees that were obviously in mid swarm, and there were thousands of them flying and buzzing over the path I was on. I am not particularly bothered by bees, but I didn’t stick around to take a photo either.
Then on Tuesday, I was privileged to be at Manchester Cathedral for the 1st Anniversary of the Manchester Attack, National Service of Commemoration. All the major political party leaders were there (including Nicola Sturgeon), and I sat five rows behind Theresa May. In real life they seemed somehow diminished, whereas HRH Prince William appeared to have real presence. All faiths were represented and the hymns chosen were just right for the occasion. Their choirs and the Strings of the Halle Orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings – Elegie as photographs of the 22 people who died were shown on big screens around the Cathedral. It was a beautiful service, set in a wonderful and ancient setting, just an hundred yards from the Arena where the attack took place.
There were 22 candles lit, each made from the many thousands of candles left in St Anne’s Square in memory of those who lost their lives. A single candle was also lit for all those that remain, the 800 people who were injured, both physically and mentally, and their families and friends, the first responders, the volunteers, and those that have worked in support of the communities in their recovery.
The worker bee is one of the best known symbols of Manchester and all its communities. First adopted during the Industrial Revolution when Manchester led the way in embracing new forms of mass production across many industries. Since that time, local brewers (Boddingtons), universities, football clubs have all over the years adopted the bee image. Likewise, if one looks carefully bees can be seen on many items of street furniture, lampposts and bollards. Following the Arena attack, the bee emblem saw a resurgence in popularity, as it became the public symbol of unity against terrorism, and the sense of community that we are #StrongerTogether. Last week in response to public request, my local park planted a bee flower arrangement as the centre piece of its floral gardens. Similar garden features can be found across the UK, and they are both a symbol of hope, of resilience, love and perhaps forgiveness too.
I end this blog with the words spoken by Rabbi Warren Elf, representing the Jewish community. His words were taken from the Yizkor Memorial Prayer:
Death has failed
You cannot inflict oblivion or eclipse existence on those who were life of our life
They live and move with us, and in us, in spheres beyond our domain
Blessed are you, Eternal God, who enables your children to remember
Teach us to live wisely and unselfishly in truth and understanding, in love and peace, so that those who come after us may likewise remember us for good, as we on this day and every day, affectionately remember those who were to us a blessing
They live with us, in our hopes, and so shall their influence continue in our children
In you, Eternal One, they are, we are, one