Bees are essential for food production, but around the world, populations have been declining for years. Norway’s latest bid to back its fuzzy insectoid friends? The world’s very first bee highway, naturally.
“We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it,” Agnes Lyche Melvaer, head of an Oslo-based environmental group supporting urban bees, told The Guardian. “To correct that we need to return places to them to live and feed.”
It won’t look like any highway you’re familiar with, but Norway hopes this collection of flower-laden rooftops will become a corridor that provides pollinating insects safe passage through the city, with ‘rest stops’ along the way that offer food and shelter. The initiative—a cooperation between state bodies, companies, and private homeowners—is being built piecemeal, with new highway partners simply jumping in and adding their rooftops to the mix. The website polli.no contains a growing, interactive map of the entire route:
Screenshot from polli.no, showing destinations along Oslo’s new bee highway
Norwegian bees aren’t as threatened by intensive agriculture and pesticides as their brothers and sisters across the Atlantic. Still, roughly a third of the country’s 200 wild bee species are considered endangered, according to The Guardian. And that’s a problem, given that 30 to 40 percent of all food production requires pollination—a service our nectar-hungry insects offer up for free.
Whether or not this creative attempt to make Oslo more bee-friendly proves successful remains to be seen. Many biologists have said that a broader shift away from intensive agriculture is needed in order to restore bee populations to their former numbers. Clearly, reforming an entire food system built around certain agricultural practices amounts to a huge undertaking, but some parts of the world are already hurting badly from the bee shortage. For years, farmers in the Chinese Sichuan province have been forced to pollinate crop plants by hand, while growers in the US pay top dollar to have rental hives shipped across the country.
But as farmers and researchers work to develop more ecologically friendly ways to feed the world, offering bees safe haven within cities certainly can’t hurt. And as new infrastructure projects go, a highway built of flower-filled trellises doesn’t sound half bad.
Update 7/6/15: It was brought to our attention that the Pollinator Pathway program, founded in 2007, was in fact the first project that sought to create corridors for pollinating insects between built environments and wilderness. The bee highway described in this article is conceptually modeled after Pollinator Pathway.
Top image: PIERRE-HENRY DESHAYES/AFP/Getty Images