Guest blog from Adrienne Campbell:
I’ve just moved a new beehive to the church yard over the road from me. It’s the site of an ancient mound, one of several that the name Lewes comes from (Hlaewes – the Place of the Mounds – see Philip’s previous blog on this). The beehive is tucked away in a corner, right near a sit spot I’ve been going to this spring to watch the sun rise. It’s a new kind of hive, called a Top Bar beehive. It’s a one-chamber, horizontal beehive that requires no expensive gear to use and is easy to make; my friend Steven and I made this one over several sessions. Most important, though, it’s designed so that you can keep bees with very little intervention. It’s more like a bee sanctuary. Our families gathered around the hive and sang strange songs to call in the bees. I’d love to know of any bee poems or love songs that we could use.
A couple of weeks ago I was quite critical in my blog of the attitude of beekeepers using the standard methods we are trained in. There is no second thought about breaking and entering into the magical bee space for routine work; I’ve now discovered it has a name: it’s called ‘the Bien’, the undividable entity of the hive. When I first lifted the lid off a bee hive 16 years ago I was practically bowled over by the intense smell and warmth that came out. It felt like a blast of love. It probably is possible to work with the bees, within the Bien, but I believe it should be done with utmost respect and sensitivity. I’m taking a biodynamic beekeeping course next weekend and hope to learn more.
Anyway, this column I wrote was picked up by the committee of my local beekeepers association, who sent a flurry of outraged emails around commenting on my outlandish behaviour. A friend of mine is on the committee; he’s learning how to keep bees naturally, but in secret, because of his fear of castigation. He emailed them to say I was a friend of his and since there are many people like me who want to take a more natural approach, wasn’t it time the Lewes division started to incorporate some of the learning that’s going on? The upshot is that he’s persuaded them to keep top bar beehives in their teaching apiaries at Plumpton and Netherfield.
Hallelujiah! These days some change seems to happen quickly, as though the Universe is just waiting for a catalyst or even the seed of an idea, and quickly realigns itself to manifest. Like the exposure of police behaviour during demonstrations; the banks handling of our money; the politicians’ corruptions. It must out. Small actions on our part can have large effects; it works to rock the boat. So let’s rock on!
Bees! How wonderful! I have thought before that maybe it’s all wrong to “farm” them by going in and plundering their honey. My adult son only said yesterday how he’s very interested in bee-keeping and I said we’d find out more. I really like the idea of friendly, non-interventionalist beekeeping – like you said, providing a sanctuary rather than a factory farm. I researched bees quite a bit when writing my books but like most of the research detail, it ended up not being used or the novels would have become over fact-heavy.
I think you’re brave and true to stick your neck out and invite local wrath by speaking out against bad practice. And as you say, it’s a sign of the times that things are really changing fast. We are indeed in a period of huge transformation. Very exciting.
Having built a TBH at the same time as your Bee info listed here I have been to many Brighton and Lewes meetings, hoping to see another TBH working-no luck so far. It has been an exiting time seeing my hive building up so well.
How is yours doing? Did you build a viewing window into yours?