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Bee-ing the change: English resident inspired to create bee sanctuary and rewilding project in Portugal

Deborah and her bike in Woking, wearing her bee capeDeborah Richmond will cycle to Portugal in custom-made bee cape to raise awareness and crowdfund for a 25 acre honey bee sanctuary and reforestation project. Deborah began the first phase of her epic 950 km cycle ride on 16th September and aims to arrive back to her rewilding project in Portugal by 3rd October. The vision for the Rewilding our Planet project is to transform 25 acres of degraded monoculture land into a sanctuary for the honey bee, to re-forest and re-establish a biodiverse landscape.

The crowdfunder will enable the felling of pine trees that are either dead or dying to allow more light to encourage the small self-seeded native trees to flourish, and more dormant seeds to come up. Following this, 500 trees will be planted that have been selected for their suitability to the climate in the region and that require pollinating insects. This will provide the extra all year round forage needed for the bees, butterflies, bats and birds found on the land and encourage a steady water flow.

Deborah's bee capeThere is already a network of log hives on the sanctuary land; building on this, additional log hives will be made and installed on land that is being rewilded across Portugal and England, as well as in suitable gardens in peoples homes. To further accelerate the introduction of log hives, the project will host workshops to teach others how to make them and also share the theory of natural bee husbandry. The aim is to place 50 hives ready for the swarming season in Spring 2020.

Deborah Richmond said: “It is time for nature to lead the way and this bike tour is to raise awareness of the times we are in. Monocultures and controlling nature has led to the degradation of our ecosystem and human health. It is time for us to bring nature, including ourselves, back to health.”

Honey bees are the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions. One out of eight interactions between a non-agricultural plant and a pollinator is carried out by the honey bee; this is significant considering that it is but one of tens of thousands of pollinating species in the world, including wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and other bee species.

The honey bee has been in decline for many years due to the degradation of the natural world. Historically, honey bees lived in natural cavities such as old hollow trees and on cliff faces. Over time as humans domesticated the bees, they were taken from their natural environment and placed in artificial homes, close to the ground, designed to best suit the needs of the beekeeper rather than the bees.

The land in PortugalCombined with the rise of industrial farming practices and the use of pesticides, pollution, loss of foraging spaces and and the removal of natural habitat (the trees) and varroa, the health of the bees is now in a critical condition which has serious implications for human survival. In response to this threat, a global movement has arisen to return the bees to homes that mimic tree cavities - one such home being the log hive. This simple design utilises timber from trees that have come to the end of their life because of wind fall or disease. When housed in this way, the health of bee colonies has been seen to improve dramatically, showing a significant decrease in disease. Science has also shown the bees in such homes are able to fight off disease without the need for chemical intervention.

Since Deborah and project partner Phil Gould bought the land in 2016 they have removed some of the pine monoculture to allow light to return to the forest floor, and as a result native trees such as oak and chestnut have started to return. Interventions such as composting, mulching, water retention strategies and seeding have also led to a significant increase in the number and diversity of wild flowers and plant life. This has led to many more pollinators such as butterflies and bees being seen. In turn, the bird life is increasing and this year more birds have been breeding on the land. For the first time the exotic hoopoe have been rearing their young and bats have also been breeding.

If you would like to support bringing back a healthy bee population please contribute to our Crowd Funder HERE

For more details of the project visit: rewildingourplanet.com

For updates on the project:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/295354594305663/ 


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