We know the honey bee is suffering, and we know this is happening across all species, with some seeing a reduction of up to 75%. When we hear these figures we can feel helpless and unsure how to help. For the bees there is one positive and simple step we can take, provide them with a home that improves their health and helps them thrive.
Bees are suffering from human behaviour, whether from habitat destruction, pesticide usage, depleted soils or reduced forage which then results in new diseases - each of these aspects is linked to whole bigger systems of change from policy change, business leaders, consumer buying behaviour and collective awareness. The one area we can individually help is by supporting modern commercial beekeeping and for every day people to become a stepping stone to bee health returning. The industrial practice is used for honey harvesting and hives are designed with this in mind. Honey is actually the bees food, often they are left with sugar syrup in return. Not a very balanced diet like the nutrients of honey. As this continues and awareness changes, we can help.
Humans are suffering from human behaviour. If you consider human health, it mirrors bee health. We are addicted to sugar, we put pesticides in our body, diseases are on the rise, we have increased mental health issues and this list goes on. What we do to the bees, we are doing to ourselves.
As like with everything the solutions are there for us. From scientific research of studying bees in the wild, there is a selection of hives that we can buy that are developed to promote bee health. The three I recommend for the UK have been developed by Matt Somerville of Bee Kind Hives. The Log Hive, the Freedom Hive and the Golden Hive. Matt's work has been inspired by many natural beekeepers but his real inspiration is the wild bee colonies living in trees that he observes. He focuses on making hives for healthier, more, vigorous bees, which can thrive with minimal interference. The main aspects a hive needs for bee health are:
- Proper insulation
- Higher up off the ground
- The bees keep the honey (or majority of it)
- Size of hives that allow disease to be managed by the bees and promote natural selection
Science shows that strong, healthy colonies are capable of coping with varroa, viruses and other pathogens. This has been confirmed by observation of bees in wild or feral settings where colonies often chose quiet, warm or well insulated sites several metres above the ground. High up, in trees or buildings, bees are often unnoticed and cause little nuisance while living alongside man and providing essential pollination services.This sympathetic, considerate approach to beekeeping will enable people to live in harmony with bees, enjoying their presence in the garden, parks or at work. Even simply sitting by bees one notices the mind becomes calm and greater clarity arises.
I have seen from the bees on our land that commercially designed hives create mould growth over time and the bees are effected by weather variations as the insulation is inadequate for the seasonal differences. I question why for so long we been using these homes for the bees which do not support hive health?
So we need hives out there that work alongside the commercial bee keeping industry and honey harvesting. For me Bee Kind's hives do this and I am grateful for the latest science out there showing exactly what bees need to thrive, thank you particularly to the work of Tom Seeley & Torben Schiffer.
My focus is to support the distribution of Matt's hives around Surrey and surrounding areas and run workshops for people to experience what it is like to be a bee in the hive. From this there own revelations are possible. This will help people understand, from a direct experience, what is like to be a bee and what they need. Not from a commercial perspective, but from a health perspective to support both humans and bees by connecting to the wisdom of nature. This also has a ripple to other aspects of our life, as bees are a great teacher of team work. They work as they We and not the I. This can create shifts in how we see connection and collaboration.
Bee Kind has distributed 200 bee friendly hives with many people being inspired by his work and now making their own.