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July Newsletter 2017

Dear Friends

Taking our cue from the bees we have been busy, and so this letter is long overdue. It's been an exciting year - the bees have inspired a whole range of new projects and endeavours, of which we hope to give you a taste.

Bee Conference 2018

Together with our friends from SmartBeeing and Jos Willemse in The Netherlands we have started work on ambitious plan: On the 1/2 September 2018 international bee researchers, beekeepers and conservationists will convene in Holland to explore human/bee relationships from three angles: Bees in the Wild, Human/Bee Interactions, Landscapes for Bees, Conservation and Culture. Interest in this vision-forming event promises to be buoyant, so please express your interest here if you’d like to be informed of further developments. An outline programme will be published by the end of September. We have already received a ticket reservation from a great bee friend in Australia!

Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine

The new magazine's success, launched by Northern Bee Books last October, has taken us all by surprise. Not only has it attracted a wide range of eminent contributors sharing their experience and wisdom freely - it also enjoys a remarkably diverse readership in nearly 30 countries around the world! This is great testimony to a vivid interest in apicentric solutions in beekeeping, and high time, too. Please remember to renew your subscription in good time and help us keep this hopeful venture afloat. We express our gratitude to Editor John Phipps and the team at Northern Bee Books for their dedication to this beautiful publication. If you have not subscribed yet, please consider doing so and share the good news with your bee friends.

"Bee-Friendly" Flowers?

Many of you will have come across plants carrying RHS labels "Perfect for Pollinators" and "Bee-Friendly". This summer Dave Goulson's independent research has yielded startling results. We are pleased to have engaged with the RHS on this issue (albeit fruitlessly) and considered it a good use of our funds to support the crowdfunding which enabled Professor Goulson to undertake these vital inquiries.

Take a moment to inform yourself about this issue of grave concern for anyone who buys plants from the horticultural trade and wishes to support the bees through growing flowers they love. This video has just been released. To appreciate the seriousness of the pervasive pesticide situation from a honeybee specific angle, we recommend reading this piece by Graham White.

Beetime Artists Residencies

We were delighted to offer our bees’ sweet company to a group of 12 artists - painters, poets, photographers and other creatives as part of their bee art residency in the South of England. Some of the work inspired by deep immersion in bee life will soon appear on our website under “Apisophia”. Read more about this beautiful project by Karmit Evenzur and her team here

Sun Hive & Log Hive

The Trust offers much sought-after courses for making Sun Hives with trustee Rachel Hanney and log hives with Matt Somerville. We are fortunate to have such skilled teachers. Keeping up with demand for these offerings is not easy, as interest in rewilding the bees is growing fast. An excellent development! The October Sun hive course is fully booked and Rachel will organise another next Spring. Log hive courses are planned for September and March next year.

Photographic Competition

Bees on cliff face in Bulgaria By Antony Croft. Photographic entry

We have been thrilled with the beautiful pictures of wild honey bees sent to us from all over the world, and we would like more, so please do share the details of it with all your nature-loving friends, on social media and otherwise. Submitting a picture is easy, and even if you don't think your picture will win the first prize of a Freedom Hive, we would will still love you to share them with the NBKT community to celebrate the wildness of the bees. The competition closes on September 1st. View a selection of the entries here, and enter yours!

Bees on cliff face - Bulgaria By Antony Croft

Entry to the NBKT Photographic Competition

New Publication

We are honoured to present our first book publishing project, in conjunction with Temple Lodge Press. “The Spiritual Foundations of Beekeeping” by Iwer Thor Lorenzen is now available in English, introduced by our trustee Gareth John. Read Dr. David Heaf’s review here.

We also draw your attention to a beautiful article by our trustee Heidi Herrmann, entitled “The World’s Mantra” and thank Istanbul artist Arif Turan for allowing us to illustrate both the Lorenzen title as well as this with his beautiful works.

LetBee Project

Our next trip as consultants about apicentric beekeeping to Bugday (the Turkish equivalent of the Soil Association) will take us to Southern Turkey where we will, together with our Dutch and Macedonian partners, develop our recommendations to be presented at a small conference in Turkey later in the year.

Harmony in Food and Farming

Recently NBKT Trustee Rachel Hanney attended the Harmony in Food and Farming conference hosted by the Sustainable Food Trust.

The conference was inspired by the ‘ Harmony philosophy’ presented by HRH The Prince of Wales in his most recent book. Speaking at the opening session of the conference, he invited us to look at “what can be gained from the study of the systemic web of life”. In the words of SFT Chief Executive Patrick Holden: “It is with this in mind that spirituality, in all its forms, can offer one approach to re-connecting ourselves with this ‘web of life’ in order to address the climatic, ecological and public health challenges of our time. There is a need right now for all the organisations, sectors and movements that have historically been working on their own, to come together to collaborate in a new way, connected by an overarching set of higher principles as represented by the Harmony framework”.

NBKT would like to thank the Sustainable Food Trust for hosting the Sun Hive and Freedom Hive at the Harmony Conference.

Rewilding the Honey Bee

It’s been another great year for “re-wilding the honeybee”. Building on the success of 2016, Trustee Matt Somerville continued to make and install another 26 hives across the country. In total there are now 100 freedom and log hives across the UK. The results continue to amaze us.

A few hives had swarms introduced and only two remain unoccupied. All the others were filled by bees who had reached consensus on their preferred nesting site! Scout bees discover these hives very quickly, frequently before Matt gets down from the ladder. A swarm even bees took over a freedom hive that we had reserved for shows and talks while Matt's back was turned! It is hard to escape the conclusion that the bees have a pronounced preference for natural nesting locations.

Matt also offered a log hive course earlier in the year, with the goal to encourage others to make these perfect homes for bees and go on to share the skills. All 12 of the hives made were swiftly discovered by bees and occupied.. Keith Emerson describes his experience of witnessing a swarm arrive for the hive he made on the course:

“When ‘my’ swarm arrived, it was literally a moment when you just have to say ‘WOW’!

It was like a dream ….. the air filled with bees and the sound of humming all around.

I was gobsmacked and totally enchanted with the magical theatre before me.

A moment to always treasure and never forget. The second swarm I caught the tail end of.

I watched it powerlessly as thousands of bees dominated the air and all around them.

It was once in a lifetime thrill that everyone must experience. It felt like a baptism.”

The Trust has also embarked on a challenging Re-wilding project in a large stone oak forest in Spain. In this ambitious project, which has involved us in a lot of commuting, we are taking 35 commercial hives and re-introducing them to the forest. We face challenges from a blistering drought besides the problems of re-wilding adaptation. In conjunction with a local trainee we are monitoring how all these colonies and the many wild unmanaged colonies fare. We hope to tell you more following our next visit.

Science Database

We are indebted to Jonathan Powell for creating this phantastic searchable database with over 220 papers that support the central tenets of the apicentric approach. Do peruse it. We have created it with the help of Dr. David Heaf to help natural beekeepers stand their ground in an informed manner.

Thank you for your interest in our work, we greatly value your support, moral and otherwise and look forward to many more photos of wild bees!


We would like to thank Elka de Wit and her company 34.4º for generously supporting the Trust’s efforts by sponsoring a Freedom Hive which is now reserved for exhibitions and conferences. We keep it in Rachel’s van to stop further swarm takeovers.

Beware the Moon, a company specializing on highly original hand-drawn wallpapers, are is also supporting the Trust on a regular basis. We are grateful for the association with such creative sponsors who appreciate our work.

Our Donors

Finally, we express our thanks and gratitude to all our other donors, some of whom have shown remarkable generosity, and over many years. With this support we can really make things happen. If you would like to join our cherished circle of Friends of the Trust, please use the button below. We would love to hear from you.

The Trustees of the Natural Beekeeping Trust

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