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If Bees could speak ….

….. in a language we understand, we would live in a different world. More colourful, flowerful, more sane. We would be much helped in our evolvement if we could only attain to a little of the bees’ wisdom. If we understood the language of the bees, their many messages, nature would be to us as real a being as our nearest and dearest, more real even, and certainly more majestic. And we would engage with the Nature, learning her language and respecting her laws, with a passion.

We would look at the world around us with different eyes. Bee eyes. Perhaps we all know this deep down in our souls, subconsciously, maybe it is one of the reasons we seek close companionship with these wondrous creatures. As the malaise of our growing estrangement from Nature is ever more keenly felt, we turn to the bees. Lately I have had reason to ponder our human relationship with bees from an interesting new aspect. Together with friends and helpers a plan was hatched to turn a croquet lawn into a meadow, or two. High time, we reckoned, to free some land from the pattern imposed in Victorian times, and offer something nice to the bees. In fact, one could say that the bee-centric approach adopted by growing numbers of beekeepers today is in similar vein, in aiming to free the bees from the modalities of control enabled by the inventions of our Victorian forefathers.

Something changed ever since the flower meadows you see on these pictures, now in their glory, showed their first shoots. It was felt long before the first bloom appeared, in fact it began when the seeds were sown. A palpable air of expectancy! Not just the sower’s! It goes without saying that one’s hopes were high as soon as the seeds were carefully raked into the soil.

But the real change, the new something in the garden, the enhanced mood, as it were, that happened more subtly. Hardly noticeable at first, but growing stronger day by day. A steadily intensifying sense of anticipation around the hives. How one perceived this is hard to explain.

After a few weeks, visiting other hives, in other locations, the same “mood” emanated from them, too. Confusion! How could it be that the slow emergence of a few thousand flowers, affected them, too? Very confusing, especially as midsummer is intrinsically a time of expectation, a kind rush to fulfilment. Gardeners are only too aware of that.

I am in a habit of spending much quiet time with my bees. This is not easy, as life constantly gets in the way, and the hives are all over the place. But the bees, I fathom, appreciate our efforts, and occasionally reward one, and if you have bees yourself, you will know what I mean. They start revealing themselves to the extent we devote ourselves to them, and being bees, what they reveal is of their nature, their wisdom and high purpose. That we understand little, is another matter!

To return to the “mood of expectancy” it dawned on us over time that the bees, the Great Bee, the overarching Oneness of the bees, responds to our thoughts and feelings, and our deeds. Any action we undertake in the realm of the living world is perceived by that world. And now, even though I struggle to understand the language of the bees, I am certain that our modest activity of ploughing up a lawn (very hard work), weeding and shaping the future meadows (moderately hard work) and sowing the seeds (lovely work) was perceived by the bees, the Bee, to whom the effort was dedicated. The bees sense our intent. Several bee-loving people were involved in creating what are now two beautiful circular flower meadows, all of them, no doubt, thinking about the bees and all the other insects who would feed from these flowers …. And right from the beginning, we meanwhile concluded, the bees knew and began expecting.

As we – all of us – not just those fortunate to cohabit with these beautiful insects at close quarters, get more proficient in understanding the bees, we have hope to evolve a little. Something of the bees’ goodness will penetrate our being. How we all stand in need of that. How the earth, the whole planet stands in need of our evolvement, about that there can hardly be any doubt.

On a physical and practical level, growing flowers for bees may become a movement, as more and more people, even beekeepers, discover the joy and delight of giving something to the bees. Growing flowers for the bees is far more beneficial than attending many a beekeeping course on offer today, and many can pursue it.

Besides creating and tending meadows, spending excessive time with bees, and dealing with everyday life, this summer has been extraordinarily busy for us bee people, with many new inquiries, media requests, potential projects, gardening, catching swarms etc. But busy is hardly the word for the frantic times Gareth has lived through … and survived, thank God!

Gareth’s bees, one could say, gave a clear message that more bees, naturally raised, are needed in the world, probably to compensate for the insane swarm prevention commonplace today. His aSwarmpiary numbered ten hives, all of which overwintered beautifully, and as the season progressed, Gareth’s bee families managed the extraordinary feat of swarming……15 times! In Gareth’s words: “I love swarm time, it’s the high point of the year, fantastically exciting, but what happened this summer threatened to defeat me ….. weeks of hurriedly building boxes, climbing trees, tending for the new colonies, and all of that on top of preparing for other things such as our forthcoming appearance at “Art in Action”, let alone life’s other challenges (Gareth has the builders in!) – it was madness!” But joyful madness. And not all the swarms were high up in trees, but nevertheless presented challenges – such as how to cope with a swarm so heavy it threatened the very integrity of the little fruit tree on which it had alighted.

A propos “Art in Action”: We have been invited to inhabit a large tent at this leading Arts and Crafts event which takes place every year, featuring around 400 musiscians, performers, lecturers and artists from around the world, attracting 25 000 visitors over the four days it is staged. We are thrilled to represent … well … beekeeping? Not quite. We hope to show those who favour us with a visit that the bees are Nature’s greatest artists, fully deserving of our care, our interest, and maybe even our reverence. One of Gareth’s new colonies will be sharing our tent with us. They have been settled in over the last couple of days, and will fully orientated to their new environment by the time we all arrive. Naturally, the iconic sunhive, designed by German sculptor Guenther Mancke, will take pride of place in the Bee Tent.

Rachel Hanney, NBKT trustee and sunhive maker extraordinaire, will be demonstrating her exquisite craft. We are greatly looking forward to the event, which will unfold in the spectacular setting of Waterperry Gardens near Oxford.

Finally, a little promise: We will be in touch a little more regularly in the future; our work for the bees is promising to take us in a number of new directions, and we would like to share with you some of what we envisage in the future, in due course.

With our best wishes for a rich and beautiful summer for you and your bees.

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