The leaves have started falling and we send our greetings. Samhain, All Souls, the end of harvest are now behind us and we look back over a season of many blessings and bee-inspired encounters.
As our bees prepare for a period of staying in the dark of the hive, we humans, too, sense inwardness returning to our soul life; it goes with the fading of the light, the fogs and long evenings. It goes with the silence that is descending on all of nature. There will be a time of bee silence ahead of us - a good time to gather the harvest of the year’s experiences and impulses, time to deepen our grasp of what lies ahead, what must be done, for the bees and for our world.
We share a harvest's bounty
And know deep in our hearts
The past must be cleansed away
For the future to start
The veil is at it's thinnest
We walk between the worlds
Diviners bring their instruments
And mysteries become unfurled
The harvest’s bounty brought to us by the bees is so much bigger than the honey associated with them, and it is time for our collective “beekeeper consciousness” to accommodate this fact both in theory and practice. The general public often has a keener appreciation of the bees’ real predicament than many a beekeeper. That is really promising. Where would we be without that sweet relationship between the bees and the flowers, that essential interdependence, pinnacle of all the myriads of mutual relationships we find in nature? Perhaps this is a relationship to ponder in the coming evenings.
A Summer of Activity
We at the Natural Beekeeping Trust look back over a fruitful year of activity, inspiration and some new resolves, too. In the ripeness of summer we listened to many people with concern in their hearts for the bees and this helped us to envisage the path of our future work. We have resolved to undertake various steps to help the bees back into the trees where they belong. Living in trees is the bees’ birthright, as it were, even though it seems that this has long been forgotten. Thankfully it has not. There is a renaissance of tree beekeeping and related activities, such as keeping bees in log hives, going on all over Europe, as well as in the United States. In this country the first Zeidler tree hive was created on one of Britain’s largest organic farms by Jonathan Powell. We look forward to working with new partners to help make manifest our hopes and aspirations, to create a tangible contribution to the gradual rewilding of our woodlands with bees. We look forward to sharing our aspirations in more detail very soon.
Sustainable Beekeeping Field Trips
In early autumn we were fortunate to meet many beekeepers and bee guardians in The Netherlands, the third stop on our LetBee research journey into sustainable methods of bee husbandry. Some of our impressions are captured in the photo documentation on this webpage. (We will be adding some text shortly.) Our grateful thanks to our gracious Dutch hosts, who work together so well in SmartBeeing. They showed us some fascinating insights into both sustainable commercial beekeeping and sustainable farming. Some of the skeps in the apiary below are 150 years old! We also learnt that the key to profitability is not quantity, it is quality.
It becomes crystal clear wherever we go that the future of the bees, their health and wealth is inextricably linked to the practices of agriculture, of gardening, too, and land use in the widest sense. Seen from this angle the country of Macedonia is still a paradise for bees. In contrast, in Britain, the Netherlands and other western European countries, the losses suffered by the bees in terms of reduced habitat and diversity of forage -which both result from intensive chemical agriculture- are severe and in urgent need of redress.
The tree beekeeper in our midst, Jonathan Powell, was initiated into this ancient craft by Polish Zeidlers. He recently shared his skills at a tree beekeeping seminar and log hive making workshop in Essen, Germany, where interest in these time-honoured practices is buoyant. Jonathan is also the author of the NBKT’s Field Guide to tree beekeeping, the first publication of this kind worldwide. To our great satisfaction we have already received feedback from beekeepers as far away as Australia and Canada, reporting their success in offering log hives as well as tree cavities to their local bees.
The latest member of our board of trustees, Matt Somerville, is an artisan carpenter, whose skills and imagination will help us substantially in our endeavour to encourage the creation of many more places where bees can live free from disturbance. To ensure the bees’ health and wellbeing far into the future, we are certain that it is essential to undertake many different actions to help the recovery of native stock which reproduces by swarming. There is more about Matt’s innovative hive design, pictured at the top of this newsletter, here. Please share this important piece about native and wild bees with your favourite conservation body, environmental charity, school or local farmer.
Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine
The new International Journal of Bee-centered Beekeeping is out in the world now - an inspired idea of John Phipps, editor of the well-established Beekeepers Quarterly and Jeremy Burbidge, the man behind Northern Bee Books. We have been privileged to offer subscription facilities for the magazine on our website, where you can also browse the launch issue. Our trustees submitted some articles for the first issue alongside such luminaries as Dr. David Heaf, Dr. Dorian Pritchard and other notable natural beekeepers such as Tim Malfroy. We greatly look forward to our continued association with this exciting venture. Interest in Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine, we are told by the publishers, has surpassed expectations. Responses from the first cohort of subscribers (from fifteen countries worldwide so far) have been most encouraging. Please do tell your bee friends about this new star on the horizon of beekeeping literature.
Some of us have just returned from Ireland where we attended the opening of the Mid Ulster Beekeeper’s hill fort apiary, gloriously situated on an ancient fort near Cookstown in the north of the country. We now envisage returning there next March to teach the craft of making log hives to a number of people committed to pass on the skill to others. In Ireland we were hosted by Jeremy Turkington who has raised the stakes of habitat restoration for bees considerably by planting many thousands of trees in Co. Tyrone in recent years, and Alan Abraham, chair of the Mid Ulster Beekeeping Association. Appropriately, the opening was marked by a tree planting ceremony and initiated by the sounds of Irish bagpipes. We learnt that the Irish word for a wild bees nest is Cuasnóg, which also means “lucky find”. In Ireland a sense of the sacred in nature is still prevalent amongst people and that bodes well for our possible participation in bee projects there.
Thanking the Bees
The thought of giving expression to one’s gratitude to the bees in one’s life is never far away, especially at this time of the year when their life of activity outside draws to a close. People will thank their bees in myriads of ways, vocally, in silence or in song, but whatever your way you might appreciate the beautiful tunes played to the bees by Jim Spalink on the Celtic Harp.
Finally, we express our thanks and gratitude to our donors, some of whom have shown remarkable generosity. Without their support, none of what we do would be possible. If you would like to join them, please use the button below.