Thoughts, News & Events from the Natural Beekeeping Trust
Bees after Lammas
Late summer is a testing time for bees, as a variety of predators line up and take a keen interest in the colonies’ stores, the honey the bees will have prepared from the rich array of blossoms visited in the course of the year for their precious nectar and pollen, the archetypal diet of the honeybee. Apart from defending their stores, gathering the last of summer’s and early autumns nectar and pollen, and raising the all-important winter bees, the colonies are preparing their hives for the cold nights ahead.
We have become so accustomed to seeing a vast variety of different sorts of honey displayed in supermarkets at ridiculously low prices that we may find it hard to imagine that what we are seeing there, and possibly consuming, is predominantly a result of “farming” bees in a way not appropriate at a time when bees as a whole are telling us that all is not well in the environment in which they forage. There are many places in the countryside where bees can no longer live as a result of the scarcity of forage available, and the areas where wholesome and untainted forage is available throughout the year are shrinking fast for reasons we are well aware of but seem to be increasingly powerless to address.
Returning to our bees, we see them, in these late days of summer engaged in a number of activities which are unique to this time of year. At nearly every hive entrance the guard bees will be found on high alert, working hard to fend off marauding wasps trying to enter the hive in order to raid the larder. Bees from other colonies will also be looking around driven by a desire to find weak colonies unable to defend their stores. Strong healthy colonies will succeed in defending their supplies, on whom their winter survival depends. Keeping colonies healthy and strong is vital, and the last days of summer are invariably a testing time, for the bees as well as their keeper or guardian. In more ways than one: it is the time of harvest, the time when a vast array of plants yield their fruit.
Late summer is also the time when bee colonies all over the country are contending the biggest predator of all , the human being. It has become commonplace for beekeepers to steal, suitably armed, the entirety of the honeybees’ stores and replace them with sugar water – surely a phenomenon that aptly symbolizes our “fall from grace”, an unprecedented estrangement from Nature whose harvest we now reap. Of course, bees will turn sugar syrup into honey if forced to do so, because bees have an intent to maintain the species, to survive, but it takes little imagination to picture the consequences in the long run.
Thankfully, in the world of beekeeping, there are signs of change. The bees, who have much to teach as mere humans, are far from disappearing from the “limelight”. Hardly a week goes by without some bee related news, programmes, films, some good, some less so. We are all affected by this. Whilst it may still be considered eccentric, ludicrous even, especially in beekeeping circles, to keep bees for the sake of protecting them, the notion of engaging with bees without expectation is slowly gaining ground. We can only hope that collectively, we will all become more sensitive to the needs of the bees who have a keen interest in our growing to our full human potential of stewards of the earth, and the heavenly bees, on whom much of its fruiting and flowering depends.
If we are lucky to have bees in our life already, we may observe some wondrous activities around the hive entrance. In addition to their usual activitiy of returning home to the hive with nectar or pollen, many bees can be seen carrying little balls of a glistening substance in their pollen baskets: resin collected from woody plants and trees. Dark yellow, amber, russet in colour, this precious fragrant sticky substance is taken into the hive and processed further by the bees to become propolis. Propolis is a wonder substance, naturally, and is needed by the bees to help keep the hive environment healthy, as well as to seal the hive in readiness for winter. I wish you some happy hours watching bees fortifying their hives for the time ahead.
Heidi Herrmann - Natural Beekeeping Trust
Events of interest to lovers of bees, bee carers and beekeepers
Natural Beekeeping Coutse in Burford, Oxforshire with Gareth John, FFI Click here Simplebees - Courses in Oxfordshire
8th September “Overwintering bees successfully” with the Natural Beekeeping Trust in Sussex
FFI see Natural Beeking Courses Autumn
11th September Screening of award winning bee documentary “More Than Honey” in London
FFI see More than Honey Film Screening and Panel Documentary
14th and 15th September One-day masterclass with Dr. David Heaf in Gloucestershire organized by Bees for Development
FFI see Bees for Development course with David Heaf
20th October and 17th November Skepmaking Course in Somerset using biodynamic rye straw.
FFI see Natural Beekeeping Trust Skep Making Course
27th September, 18th October, 15th November Sunhive workshops in Sussex. Natural Beekeeping Trust, full details here
Sun Hive Workshop
Please note that the workshops in September and October are waitlisted, some places still available on November.