16 Apr Alentejo Bee Journals Spring 2020
The Alentejo Bee journals Spring 2020 1st installment mid March to mid April
Dear Bee and Earth lovers
I would like to write to you from a Southwestern rural area of Portugal in the Alentejo, where I arrived to be with bees before the worldwide lockdown occurred and decided to stay while it lasted.
I feel very good with my choice to be here as it allows me to be with land, with trees and bees, with the forge and the alchemy – nature, the Earth and all the truly supports life being completely available.
What called me back to the bees this spring?
There are major differences to being and working with the bees that I am learning and evolving here to any other ways of being with bees I have encountered before.
Years ago I became a bee keeper after attending an alternative bee keeping course, but then in order to have local back up I needed to join the local bee keeper’s society where I learnt practices that now I see were really invasive and detrimental to the wellbeing of the bees. In order to fulfill those what were called ‘necessary’ invasions of the hive body, I had to wear protective clothing / bee-suits – exposing no part of my body, so that the invasion could be executed without me feeling the feedback of the bees who very clearly warn an invader when opening a hive is an untimely trespass and harmful to the wellbeing of the hive.
So what we are practicing and learning here is so different and deeply honouring of the life of the bees, intending to support their well being and work, learn from them, co-create with them and be in communion with them, rather than perceive and use them as farm animals whose products are our economic support.
Approaching the bee hive:
We approach the hives barefoot, so we are in contact with the Earth and tune in with the hive before we approach to be in communion and if at any point we sense a requirement to open a hive (very rarely truly necessary) we would ask and tune in. We usually don’t wear protective clothing and we are welcomed by the bees – surrounded by the humm. Sometimes when we come too close we hear and respond to the more intense warning humm of a guard bee asking us to step back.
This Spring many bees including the honey bees have been coming in with new swarms and vitality earlier than usual:
As many of you know, last autumn this part of the Alentejo saw the demise of many many bee colonies – way more than any of the previous years, where there always were losses in the dry summers and the cold winters, but not like the losses experienced during the last season, which was way more extreme. What did the bees show us?
We were looking at how we can support all wild bees and in particular the honeybees as the alchemists and way showers of community thriving in these times?
We started to look at how bees living in symbiotic partnership with trees could really be supported both in their thriving and wellbeing – trees providing a much more profound shelter for bees that includes the microclimate of the tree, its internal apothecary, thick living walls to regulate extreme outside temperatures and moisture, shelter from Electromagnetic frequencies and more. So we started looking for log hives – hollowed out tree trunks with very big wall and created tree hives –
using natural tree cavities and shaping them a little with cob to make them habitable for bee colonies. – see my first Bee blog Journeys with bees from last autumn
Throughout the winter and early spring several of my bee friends made interesting discoveries. Several of them found bee colonies who had settled in trees themselves, as if to confirm this re-wilding impulse of bees living more healthily in trees.
And then this spring, swarms of bees started to arrive early – full of vigor and vitality from the few surviving vital colonies.
am so moved by these beings of light who are showing us a path. What did they know about dying and renewal that is now happening…? And what are they showing us regards living more closely in symbiotic partnership with trees, land, vegetation, Earth? A friend of mine speaks about the need to rewild ourselves…
In the early part of this spring we still found losses after the winter as well as some very vital survivors.
Part of the work in the early spring was to get hives ready for new swarms.
Various bee hives we work with:
We placed 5 log-hives on various lands – inviting bees into a hollow trunk home that was once a tree high off the ground.
We built a couple of tree hives in living trees, where we reduced the vast open cavities with cob to create better sized and protected cavities.
We also placed a few what they call ‘swarm attractor’ boxes, where swarming bees can find temporary homes. They look more like the conventional square bee hive boxes,
And we also prepared some hives called top-bar hives that are installed to foster deeper human – bee relationships world – giving humans access to the bee world through a glass window at the back, whose cover can be opened to see the bees at work in their home without disturbing them and two tiny holes for stethoscopes, where humans can listen and meditate with the humm of the bees – a very profound experience. These hives need some improvements regards thicker walls and insulation for the bees – to make them long term sustainable but our first swarm chose one of these as their new home only a couple of days after we had prepared it and energetically invited a bee colony who would be happy to be a relationship building colony – being in communion and teaching us humans.
Here in Portugal swarming season is in April, while in northern Europe swarms my not emerge until may/june.
This year here in the Alentejo swarms started to arrive in late march – earlier than usual.
Swarms have been arriving into our lives every few days over the last couple of weeks. It is such a joy and privilege to be party to this vitalizing activity. Here a beautiful video of one of last years swarm :
Did you know that in conventional bee keeping swarming is attempted to be inhibited by expanding the bee hive, so that the bees are kept busy trying to fill up the bigger space with brood, honey and pollen and by removing queen cells that would produce new queens.
The bees are informing us that the yearly swarming of a colony is an act of rejuvenation for the queen and the colony. The queen takes half of the colony with her to find a new home and during that time is her only time during the year that she is outside in the light – renewing herself ( since her first nuptial flight when she became a queen).
As soon as the colony has found a new home, she will be in the dark laying eggs and holding the colony in her auric field ( also through the scent and reach of her pheromones) for the rest of the season into the next spring, when the colony builds up enough stores and strength to once again dived into two and renew. The bees left behind in the old hive have enough stores and brood to keep going until one of the new princesses emerges from a queen-cell, takes herself out on her nuptial flight and returns as a new queen. Thus both halves of the colony have renewed themselves and expanded the diversity of the gene-pool and passed on evolutionary knowledge.
There will be more…. Watch the space…
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