Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Re- wilding the honey bee

Most people who know me, know that I am passionate about small creatures, especially Hymenopterans! this family hold so much that we humans need, from wisdom to pollinators for our food supplies.
They, and we, are desperately in need of help and reconnection. Connection to nature, the wild and our own wild nature. Beautiful explained here in this podcast Lyla June, environmental anthropologist and creative. click here to listen to Endangered Diversity of Language and Life. I can't recommend it enough.
This journey in conservation and connection has led me to become part of setting up Quintas Das Abelhas (Honey Bee Farm). A re-wilding and eco project in Portugal, centred around living  and working with the land in a truly holistic manner. Recovering ancient wisdom and connections with the Earth and each other. Our central focus will be Apis Melifera.

Is the answer to saving the Honey Bee re-wilding?

I believe it’s entirely possible. To me, it seems common sense that in order for Apis Melifera to become healthy and abundant again we need to let nature do what nature intended!
During 2015-16 US Bee keepers lost 40% of their populations, 150 European Bee species are in decline and the UK lost 15% of it’s bee last winter…….and this is before we even start to address the huge decline in other pollinator insect, some which have even become extinct this in 2016.

Bees naturally choose hollow tree cavities high off the ground as a home. This provides a safe environment in which to build their own comb. It is away from predators and at an optimum height for regulating humidity and moisture content. There are also some studies indicating the further benefits provided by this environment surrounding beneficial bacteria and fungi.

Recent agriculture practices, technology and beekeeping techniques have seen a rapid decline in the bees health and colony collapse as well as an explosion of diseases and infestations. The fact is, we have interfered with bees to the level that they are no longer able to manage these problem by themselves due to weaken immunity compromised nervous systems.

Our aim (here at Quinta Das Abelhas) is to explore a solution to this problem by re-wilding the Honey Bee. Our aim is to create an environment as close to nature as possible, giving the bees a chance to behave in a natural and instinctual way.. We humans will be acting as bee guardians not bee keepers, Through unobtrusive observation we can watch, learn and hopefully go someway to building a healthier and more resilient bee stock.

We will be working with a variety of techniques such traditional log hives, cork hives, tree hives (possibly a sun hive or skep, warre, for learning from) where the bees are free to build their own comb and live as nature intended. We will be observing which hives produce the healthiest colonies and encourage swarming by placing swarm boxes in trees etc. Research shows that a log hive or similar environment not only allows the bees to build, but provides a more constant state, regarding temperature, moisture and bacteria, compared to the contemporary commercial ground based framed and boxed hives.

We will not be regularly entering the hives, treating or harvesting. We will watch and learn. This mean looking at this project in the long term and monitoring the bee population as it rises, falls and thrives. It also means resisting the urge to interfere and ‘help’,a huge challenge for the most passionate beekeeper!

The idea is that we will create a landscape and environment rich in biodiversity and sustainability to foster the ultimate scenario in which the bees and other pollinators can maximize their productivity, re-production and regeneration.
This involves a full and varied diet/forage of native and indigenous plants across 30 acres of varied meadow and forest landscape.

Our hope is that this project can serve as a springboard for others. Help create a European and global network of natural beekeeping and guardianship, and a project that can develop into a space for learning and education.

More wonderful articles on natural beekeeping can be found here and at

Pictures courtesy of the natural beekeeping trust.

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