To say that bees play an essential role in the biodiversity and the balance of the natural environment is nothing new. Nor is the message from scientists that the bee population is diminishing on a global level (an estimated 37% in recent years). This is particularly worrying in countries like Spain. Here, 75% of our food is provided by fruit and vegetables, which rely on pollination in order to grow. In other words, we need bees.
The City of Malaga's Environment Department has initiated a strategy in conjunction with the Bee Garden association to develop pollination mechanisms in order to protect and promote natural spaces. The initiative is based at Los Ruices environmental centre, the home of the city's recycling plant and landfill site. It aims to encourage pollination with the installation of ten bee hives where more than 300,000 bees will be hard at work.
Raúl Jiménez, the local councillor for the Environment, visited the Los Ruices centre last week with Eva Gómez, technical director of Aula Bee Green, who stressed how this was a “pioneering” initiative. Only a handful of similar projects are in operation in Spain, in Valencia, Galicia and Catalonia.
Urban bee-keeping doesn't just facilitate environmental improvements, explained Gómez. It also helps to create awareness of the importance of bees among city-dwellers.
“Bees are fundamental to our surroundings,” Gómez stressed. The project also includes Ecoaula, a workshop where schoolchildren can learn about the importance of respecting their natural environment: from recycling to bees.
In terms of selecting the location of the beehives, spaces with most protection for colonies of insects were favoured. The sites are off the beaten track of staff and visitors, but still easily accessible, ensuring the best possible working conditions for bees. The aim of this project is not the collection of honey, but the pollination of the environment. “Whatever is produced will go towards sustaining the bees during the winter,” said Gómez.
This drive towards pollination around Malaga is complemented in the case of Los Ruices by a parallel project to measure the impact of the waste dumped in the area.
“As waste is treated in this area, the bees will also serve as a biological thermometer to detect environmental imbalance,” explained Jiménez, who added that the aim is to increase the number of hives to forty.
Furthermore, their ultimate goal is to export the initiative to more local areas, such as the La Concepción Botanical Gardens. According to the councillor, hives will be incorporated into the “green belt” of the city as part of its reforestation project.