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Freya Cohen, a second-year Biology student, has launched a project to paint or draw some of the 270 species of bees in the UK.

She started the project on the 8th of April, which is taking place in the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens in Stoke Bishop over the next two weeks. The artwork will be painted on recycled materials.

Freya’s project is facilitated by her winning of the ‘Grow for it Award’ earlier this year. The award from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew gives £500 to young people to lead projects that will ‘raise awareness about the importance of UK native wild flowers and plants’, according to their site.

‘I want to engage people in discussion about the conservation of native species, share my passion for flying insects, and give people the tools necessary to make their gardens more wildlife friendly,’ Freya told Epigram. She is passionate about getting ‘messy, muddy and painty’.

In a world where conservation is often a ‘topic of doom and gloom’ (as Freya articulates), there is a need for more positive and optimistic messages.

She will also be getting the public involved with the project through a ‘paint and create’ collage, according to the university, as part of the Sculpture Festival and Quilting Exhibition which takes place from the 14th April until Easter Monday (17th April) from 10am-5pm in the Bristol Botanic Gardens.

Entry to the Botanic Garden Sculpture Festival is free for students. More information can be found here.

This aims to draw public attention to the decline of bees, a result of global warming and disease, and increase public appreciation for the creatures that are so integral to pollination and food production.

An aim to ‘magnify both the beauty and diversity of solitary bees’

There will be a particular focus on the role of solitary bees, as they receive little attention. ‘Many people don’t know solitary bees even exist,’ as Freya told Epigram, yet ‘research shows that they are important pollinators of crops and other plant species. My paintings aim to magnify both the beauty and diversity of solitary bees.’

Parents getting involved

Talking about the materials she uses, Freya told us that she often ‘rummage[s] in skips and create artwork on old pieces of wood and cardboard: it makes a statement about our throw-away culture and support of the anti-packaging movement. The fragile cardboard also symbolises ecosystems as a complex web of interactions which can easily be destroyed.’

Freya is also Project Co-ordinator of Roots Community Garden with fellow student Oli Soutar. This project encourages students to connect more with nature by working in a team to make the campus greener and more attractive, thereby also boosting mental health and wellbeing. As Freya says, ‘art and gardening are great forms of therapy: these activities can inspire imaginations, provide relaxation, enhance connectivity with others and the environment.’

Jack sticking a wildflower onto the growing meadow. Bees need forage throughout the year, and a balanced diet of flowers to stay healthy.

Freya and Oli are encouraging students to get involved with wildflower planting with Roots Community Gardening, who meet every Wednesday in term time for a few hours from 13:15. Email [email protected] to subscribe to the mailing list.

Freya was inspired by her conservation lecturer, Professor Steve Harris, who said: ‘Any species can be conserved. You just need the will.’

Featured image: The welted mason bee, a rare species which was recently found in a Bristol allotment. They lay their eggs in the dead, hollow stems of flowers. Freya: ‘this will hopefully encourage people to leave their lawn mowers in the shed and allow patches of their garden to grow wild!’ [mixed media on cardboard]

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