Bombing for Bees: Creating a Bee-Friendly Cornell

Cornell was recently the lucky host of international artist Mike Bianco, who self-describes his practice as “socially engaged art, and focuses on issues of politics, environment, sustainability, community activism, energy decline, and the impending ‘century of crisis.’” Bianco’s particular interest is in bees.

A highly educated individual, Bianco has earned a BA in Interdisciplinary arts from Alfred University, a Masters in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts, a Masters of Fine Arts in Art & Design from the Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, and is currently working on his PhD of Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia.

Mike Blanco makes the seed balls watched by Zara Anderson (19) and Gus Yafcak (18)
Source: Isabel Stone

Just last year he applied his vast education to co-author an article called “Protecting our Food Systems: Responding to Honey Bee Population Decline in Michigan,” which was published in the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs in 2014. The paper covers a “one year investigation into the complex causes and consequences of the current honey bee population decline, and potential responses that key stakeholders in Michigan can adopt to mitigate the problem.” A link to the journal can be found at http://mjpa.umich.edu/files/2014/08/MJPA-Vol11.pdf.

Recent years have seen a severe, and highly concerning, decrease in the population due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which a majority of the worker bees vanish, leaving behind the colony queen and immature bees. Exact causes are unknown, but there are many possible theories, including pesticides and poor nutrition. To this end, Bianco considers seed bombing to be at least part of a cure.

Several student, staff, and community members alike gathered in McWethy last Wednesday to participate in “Seed for Bees!” a seed bomb workshop hosted by Bianco. Seed bombing – also known as seed grenades, aerial reforestation, or free seeding – is not an unheard of concept to anyone who’s read popular children’s story Miss Rumphius or of historical figure-turned-legend Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman. As their stories go, the two traveled around throwing lupine and apple seeds, respectively, to “leave something beautiful,” as the story goes.

Seed balls ready to go!
Source: Isabel Stone

Everyone present gathered around a center table to mix together the necessary ingredients to make their own seed bombs. Materials included pesticide-free seeds, compost or soil, dry powdered clay, water, a mixing bucket and a measuring cup. Five parts of the clay were mixed with seven parts compost in the bucket, to which one part of seeds were added. The next step – adding 1-2 parts of water – started the messy part, and Marin Dettweiler (19) volunteered to get her hands dirty. The last part is one of the most crucial; too little or too much water and the clay will never hold together correctly to best release the seeds it contains.

Finally, the rest of the audience was able to get their hands a little dirty. Everyone received as much of the seed bomb mix that they could hold to roll into one inch balls, or about the size of golf balls. A few enthusiastic participants enjoyed themselves so much they even managed to get a little mud on their face. The seed bombs were then left to dry overnight, to be picked up ready to toss whenever and wherever desired.  

For more information about Mike Bianco and his activism, go to biancoproject.com

 

Isabel Stone, Staff Writer