Thursday, 18 May 2017

Heaven in a the honey bee update.

Pollinator Meadows and Portugal


I have recently returned from spending time at Quinta Das Abelhas in Portugal. 
There is clearing work going on, smothered areas of land in which broom and bramble are so thick nothing can breathe. Bramble and Broom are fantastic forage for the bees but grows so thickly and dense in the mountains it needs to make some room for diversity. It also a severe fire risk and the areas need to be made safe before the deadline in May. Last year large areas of Portugal suffered terrible bush fires and much was lost. As close as a few hundred yards from the land in places. All of which means the land needs some healing.

Base Camp
Home Sweet Home
The big black bumbles beautiful wing.

wild lupins

A strange hairy little chap,
 I haven't found out who he is yet!

I spent my birthday lounging around reading this fantastic
 book by Dave Goulson "A Buzz in the Meadow'
Living the Dream!

I mostly spent my time in bug heaven! Observing and making new friends,discovering what plants are coming up and what the 'flow' is and looking for areas already rich in pollinators to learn from. It is amazing to see the areas that have been completely untouched have a markedly lower percentage and variety of insects at this point in the cycle. 

These videos are from a nearby meadow that has been occasionally tended by a local family and includes a few patches of brassicas that have been left to go to seed. 
The hum in the meadow was like nothing I have ever heard before, the air was thick with sooooo many difference species of bee, bumbles, solitary, honey as well as other bugs, butterflies and even little frogs. It was my idea of bliss and I could have just stayed there all day stalking insects!
The variety of wild flower species, vetches etc was also more than you could count. There was an abundance of edible plants and forage that we found for dinner. It is the perfect example that with co-creation and care we can create the optimum environment for everybody!

It was pollen time for the pines that grow thickly around the area, the air was filled with luminous yellow/green dust coating everything thickly with a sulphurous glow and the tree tops were filled with a trance inducing meditative thrum, every hymenoptera gathered to take its fill. The willow pollen was just starting to send its fluff out on the breeze and a feisty collection of bumblebees were making a home in the roof of the ruin.

When I was there a few months earlier the moth webs we still in the tree tops, this time the caterpillars had made their way down to the ground and were moving in their snake formations along the ground.!

It is a big project and a slow grower, there is much to be done on the land to focus on regeneration as well as the 're-wilding' for the honey bees. It's a process. A conversation. A dance between the land, the bees, the other creatures that live there and us. Calling and coaxing all the potential already dwelling there out into it's most abundant, magnificent  form.
The plan is to start with a couple of hives and organically grow the process. There is 30+ hectares of forest,meadow and growing land, wells, ruins and rocks and incredible sacred sites. Locals to get to know better and the families who once tended and farmed the land whom are helping with clearing. Pedro the roaming shepherd with his jangling herd and ferocious dogs!
We are exploring the traditional cork hive and I am keen to have a go at making our own.

The wonderful Deborah, who has leapt in with feet, hands, head, heart and is in Portugal full time, doing an apprenticeship with bees on a project further south and creating networks of projects and bee folks, living in a caravan and steering the ship until the rest of the crew arrive. There is a bait hive out and a top bar hive that Deborah is currently working with.

The last morning we woke to find snow on the high Serra's, this is a view you can never grow tired of!

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