I have always wanted to have my own bees in the garden. In fact, we went on a bee keeping course about 4 years ago, and realised that we would never be able to afford the time while working full time AND growing most of our own food at the same time, so we shelved that idea. So when I read in our local paper, that a beekeeper was looking for space to locate his hives, I jumped at the chance to offer up our garden. Although he was initially looking for somewhere in the country and not in town, he quickly saw the advantages as I listed them for him;
- Our garden is totally organic so the bees can forage safely,
- He could have unlimited access to our garden and come and go unannounced,
- We LOVE bees and would care for their well-being as if they belonged to us!
We were ever so excited when Barry arrived one day with 2 beehives on the back of his ute. The bees wandered out when he opened up their “doorway” and immediately set about exploring their new environment. Seems they were happy, and despite a small set back when one hive seemed to have “lost” it’s queen, early in the piece and had to be replaced with a new queen, the bees settled in and became part of the Backyard Business! We provide Barry’s Bees with a chemical-free foraging haven, and in return, they provide pollination for our fruit trees and veggies. It’s a win-win situation and we are happy to be part of the solution to protecting our dwindling bee species.
Watching the process of honey extraction makes one understand the Vegan intent: to cause no harm! I admire their dedication to the cause. In time, I think we may move from vegetarian to vegan and eliminate the use of honey, SIMPLY because commercial honey production IS cruel, and I watched in breath-holding introspection as I saw how many bees are killed in the extraction process. Our beekeeper has about 30 hives and is very experienced at his job, however, it is impossible to NOT kill many bees in this system (I am sure home bee keepers and the Flow Hive have less impact on the decimation of bees in their extraction methods). The smoker used, is designed to interrupt the colony’s defensive response ( i.e to sting the hell out of the intruder!). It confuses the guard bees and they stay inside to try to protect the queen.
During the past year while we have had the bees, we have watched the bee-keepings with interest. We have never been stung, even though our compost bin sits right next to the beehives, and I think that’s because my Maori spirit-sister, Gina said I should sing to the bees so they become familiar with the sound of me, so I always sing a little hello to them when I walk past. Barry has been amazed at how well these bees have done in our little backyard, in fact, he has “robbed” the hives several times over the last year, to repopulate other hives which have not done so well! I wasn’t too happy with him taking “our” bees, but have to remind myself that they are his bees! He tends them and we have no hard graft associated with bee-keeping, only advantages.
When our second tier boxes were removed in late May this year during the harvest, and I surveyed the aftermath of hundreds of dead bees at the base of the remaining hives, I felt saddened, but then I tried to look at it in a different light and I came up with a feel-good thought. We are still providing our world-wide endangered bee population a space where they can forage unhindered by toxic sprays, so we shall continue to provide a safe haven for Barry’s Bees. This makes me feel way better. And while not having managed to end my honey consumption, I have reduced my intake considerably, and am more focussed on gratitude when I do use honey. Did you know, that a bee makes a teaspoon of honey, on average, in it’s entire lifetime? Puts our honey-obsessed eating habits in focus!
Mike read a book a while back, which highlighted the plight of man’s survival pivoting around the success of bees being able to survive. It predicted that we will have but four years of survival on earth, should we lose all our bees, as EVERY bit of pollination of our food (and even that of the animals people eat) hangs on the delicate balance of being able to be pollinated by….bees! So let’s be mindful of these little buzzy guys, sing to them, welcome them into your garden by planting plenty of wildflowers, lavenders etc. and keep any toxic sprays away, for your health, the health of these little guys. Bee kind to them, please!