Today’s post from Daniel highlights the place of bees in the ecological web that is so rich at Steward Wood.
Bees arrived at Steward Wood on 26th January 2016. ‘What do you mean?’, I hear you say. ‘Weren’t there bees around before then?’ Yes there were – bees of all kinds: bumblebees, solitary bees, and of course honey bees (apis mellifera). But all the honey bees were visiting from their homes in other places.
Now we also have our own hives – three in fact – generously given to us by our friends Ian and Alex who, after 8 years of beekeeping, have decided to take a break. However, they will be guiding myself, Son & Mel through our first season as the main bee guardians in the woods. This has already been a fascinating journey of discovery and delight and it will, no doubt, continue to be so as we care for these magnificent creatures. Bees hold a critical place in the ecological web and are so threatened at this time by habitat loss, pesticides and other chemicals, disease, and exploitative beekeeping practices.
I love watching at the hive entrance, seeing the comings and goings. The bees, in the cold winter months in this country, would normally be clustered in the centre of the hive preserving their heat and gradually eating their stores of honey. However, due to the mild, well actually warm, winter we’ve been having, the bees have been flying most days throughout this time. At the moment, they can forage on ivy, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, and other random plants in flower due to the balmy temperatures.
On the day we brought the hives over, we unplugged the entrance hole and out they came, performing a spiral orientation flight and exploring their new environment. At Steward Community Woodland, they have available lots of tree flowers, apple blossom, all the flowers of the woodland, flowers in our gardens, and in the pasture and gardens around. We will be planting more bee friendly plants such as lavender and herbs such as thyme which the bees love and use the essential oils (which are ant-bacterial etc) in their propolis (the bee’s medicine).
As well as their obvious role in pollination, bees bring bee consciousness to the place where they live. There is a fascinating book on this topic called The Song of Increase – Returning to our sacred partnership with honeybees by Jacqueline Freeman. Bees enrich and harmonise the environment each day, helping Nature in so many ways to fulfil the evolutionary directive. Humans and bees can care for each other and sing the song of shared awareness. Love, of course, is the key ingredient in our relationship with bees and all of life.
The bees at Steward Wood are in National hives at present, the standard hive used in this country. After the first season, we are likely to begin trying out Top Bar Hives and Rose Hives. These latter hives are more suited for a natural beekeeping approach, although it’s certainly also possible to keep bees in Nationals and use a natural approach.
In any event, our keeping of bees is bee centric. We wish them to thrive and thus perform well their vital function in the ecosystem. We also wish to sensitively harvest hive products – honey, pollen, & propolis – when there is a genuine surplus. Tasting our first Steward Wood honey will be an exquisite experience.
Remember, you can watch our new film and read all about our project and the current situation over here at the crowdfunder page.
Thank you for your continuing interest and support – we cannot do it without you!