Saturday, October 13, 2012

Urban Organic Beekeeping

Beeswax and Bee Card - art by Anne Vis Rainbow Beeswax Encaustic Card - art by Anne Vis
Last night I decided to check out an information evening about the local bee situation in Amsterdam and I wasn't the only one! In the audience were both beekeepers and people who were just curious to know more about the bees, like myself.
After publications that local beehives were suddenly found empty, I was wondering how these amazing creatures are doing now. And they are still struggling.
Urban beekeeping is becoming more and more "trendy" and Amsterdam is trailing behind other cities, where there are many more beekeepers. London actually seems to be "full" now!
This evening was run by organic beekeepers, and it became clear that there is a lot of discussion in "bee keeping world" about what is actually the best way to keep bees. One of the reasons also being the mites that are killing the bees and how to decimate them. Suggested was an environment friendly approach consisting of warming the entire hive, which would be supported well by the bees, and faint the mites, which then could be "caught". (not killing the mites).
The bee world turns out to be very complicated and thus the reasons why they are struggling so much might also be in a variety of factors all coming together. The pesticides, the electro smog, the GMO and also the climate. This latter was devastating this past year in the Netherlands. The main (excellent!) speaker, Albert Muller, who has his hives in the center of the country, said that in this past (according to the media "mild") winter the bees had a very hard time to survive weeks of minus 21 degrees Celsius. They need more food to keep warm and eat honey. I did not know that bees eat honey, but they do. (This suddenly makes eating honey maybe not such a great practice ...)
Actually keeping the bees well fed seems to be one of the keys to keep their immune system strong. What can help there is having a variety of different flowers for them.
And talking about GMO, the genetic build-up of bees is a story in itself. It is not only related to the distance from the hive they go to feed, but also surprising other factors play a role. Like the import of thousands of bees from Hawaii! (Who would have thought that?) This seems to be related to money or should I say big money ... (what's new).
Connected to this is the way beekeeping is done and how it affects the honeycomb as in nature bees build this themselves, but the past fifty years it has become habit to prefabricate the honeycombs in the (erroneous) belief that this will produce more honey. And because of the recycled wax that is used, the immune system of the bees is affected ...
As just a regular citizen, the best way to go is probably grow some flowers where possible. The representative of the local government who was present said the government is aware of the situation and is doing their best to use bushes instead of fences and plant as large a variety of plants and flowers as they can.
You can find more information on this topic on I love Beeing (Dutch) or information in english on organic beekeeping.
Or you may check out my previous posts on bees in Amsterdam and experiences with bee healing.

Did you know: that bees see grass as grey and have their hearing senses located in their feet?
On a final note: the images are some of my earlier works, created with beeswax or called encaustic art ...

No comments: