Honeybee everything was everywhere for a few years and then suddenly… it was lemons. This isn’t a personal décor issue. As beekeepers we have plenty of honeybee themed items in our home because when you become a beekeeper people buy you bee-themed things. If you have chickens, people buy you chicken-themed things. If your daughter mentions she likes cats when she is six years old, people buy her cat-themed things until she proves she likes something else. Our home has within its walls many bee, chicken, and cat (and turtle- different story) themed things. I have not purchased any of them.

You can imagine my surprise this last week when I set out to actually take advantage of that honeybee fad and get a few themed items for an auction basket I’m putting together for a local charity. Instead of bees, I found lemons. Lemon pillows, lemon coffee cups, lemon towels, lemon everything and everywhere.

Although beekeeping has become much, much more popular in the last several years, I highly doubt the hobby had anything to do with the home interior fad. It’s much more likely that someone on some DIY reality show put some great find bee pattered curtains or serving dish on display and WHAM every store in America had some variety of cheap, mass manufactured stuff with bees on it.

There is a slight benefit to something that needs awareness becoming mainstream because people forget things quickly. I can’t count how many times someone has told me they heard the bees were in trouble again. I’m always quick to explain that the bees and all of their little pollinator friends have been in trouble for a long time. Still, that craft store BEE KIND wall art in their hallway perhaps acts as a reminder.

Environmental issues, especially regarding endangered species has had a history of fad attachments ever since we have been aware of endangered species. Interestingly, it was a fashion fad itself that kicked off one of the first true conservation efforts here in the United States; feathered hats.

Large women’s hats covered in real bird feathers were all the rage in late 1800’s American society. The gilded age of showy wealth for those who could afford to participate often came at the expense of the natural environment, the hats were undeniable proof. An effort to change the creepy Victorian era fad began in the late 1890’s for the sake of the birds. Over five million birds were killed each year to meet the prevailing demand. Many of these birds were taken while nesting or brooding leaving an unknown number of chicks unable to survive.

Hats by H O’Neill of New York 1899-1900 Catalogue – Hat No1 -Flickr

By 1903, the women led campaign had not only decreased interest in feathered hats, but also helped create a bird reservation in Florida enacted by President Theodore Roosevelt.  

Wildlife preservation in the United States truly began as a response to crisis and in many ways has been everything from fairly effective to revolutionary. The most successful efforts to save anything whether grassroots or commissioned by Congress are those that reach a level of popularity as much as feathered hats.

Endangered rhinoceroses, tigers, polar bears, whales, eagles, elephants, and pandas have all had far reaching campaigns that garnered support for conservation efforts. Unfortunately, unless we’re being constantly reminded of their extinction status, we quickly forget they were ever in trouble in the first place. It is also likely we are unaware of the other 15,000+ threatened species as shown in the chart below:

Each and every species is a part of a functioning ecosystem. The loss of even one species can create a domino affect of loss to other species. If one little bug that feeds on an invasive plant goes extinct, that plant can take over many other plants that the remaining wildlife depend on. So, on and so on, the circle of…. (y’all know this one).

So whether we feel compelled to save a whale because it is one of nature’s most amazing mammalian creations, or a panda bear because it is cute or a Bengal Tiger because it is extraordinary, something grabbed us emotionally to get our attention. I doubt, hope but doubt, we’ll see a mass effort anytime soon to save the Gray Bat or the American Burying Beetle or the California Condor. The reality is, all of our threatened species need equal protection.

be-eco-friendly.blogspot.com/2011/04/gray-bat.html -Flickr

In the case of the honeybee, and really pollinators in general, the loss of these little bugs can mean the loss of many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. This very real concern is at the heart of the campaign to save them. Combining the idea of a world without strawberries or honey with the knowledge of the complex social structure of a hive of honeybees made it possible to create interest in these incredible insects after they become popular home interior accents. Ants, possums and bats are all equally interesting, though again, I doubt we will see the next dish set craze covered in images of any of them. As for the lemons, they appear to be hanging in there. So long as the bees can keep them pollinated.

Meaningful Living Audrey L Elder