World Bee Day (20th May 2021)

Today is World Bee Day. As a beekeeper, I did not know this. So I looked it up, and it turns out that World Bee Day came into existence only relatively recently, in December 2017, when the UN Member States approved Slovenia’s proposal to proclaim May 20th as just that: World Bee Day (the culmination of a three-year campaign by the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association).

Why this date? Because 20th May (1734) is the birth date of Slovenian Apiarist Anton Jansa, a major pioneer in the world of beekeeping.

Again, I did not know this.

We do indeed live and learn.

So, what’s it all about? Well … bees … obviously. The aim being to raise awareness of the importance of bees and beekeeping around the world, through the celebration of World Bee Day. It should by now not come as news to any of us that we need bees. Not just honeybees, but all bees and also other pollinati’ insects. Our own survival – and that of everything else on the planet – depends on it. Simple as. The good news is, there is a LOT that we can do to help. And none of it is too difficult:

1) Provide pollinator food forage: ie: grow flowers. In your garden, on your allotment, in pots or in window boxes. As wide a variety as you can, and for as much of the year as possible – ideally, all year round.

2) Get to know the many different types of bees. Watch them. Enjoy them.

3) Provide housing. No, this does not mean you need to take up beekeeping (unless, of course, you want to, and have the knowledge and practical means to do so). Honeybees live in beehives. Many other types of bee do not. An Insect Hotel will be a great home for solitary bees. And a pile of logs will provide a safe place for Bumblebee Queens and Solitary Bees to retreat overwinter.

4) Provide fresh drinking water. Nope, not sugar water. Not honey. Just clean, fresh water in a shallow dish, with marbles or pebbles to stand on while drinking, and as landing and/or take-off points.

5) Buy local honey, and beeswax products. Support your local beekeeper, helping them to support their bees. Most of the honey for sale in supermarkets is mass-produced by commercial beekeepers, treating their bees a economic commodity rather than living being. And much of this so-called ‘honey’ is heavily adulterated with cheap sugar syrups – meaning it’s not actually honey. Buy from your local small-scale beekeeper and you’ll be getting real honey, made by bees that have been well cared for.

New Year, New bee-ginnings (16 April 2021)

I began writing this on 6 January. And here we are now, more than 3 months on. Time flies, even under normal circumstance. But this last 12 months, with the whole world being so … well, just plain weird … time feels kind of elastic, speeding up and slowing down and standing still, all at the same … erm … time. And then there’s been winter. I am never particularly great in these cold, dark months. Throw in lockdown and … it’s all been a bit much really. But with spring now well and truly ‘sprung’, I’m beginning to get back out there, reconnecting with the wider world, and finding ways to move forward. Which, for me, means growing stuff and playing with bees. Creative activities – as much as my dodgy hand allows. Maintaining (or trying to maintain) health. And writing.

Having finally finished my MA in January (hoorah!) I’m allowing the academic side of my brain some much-needed ‘time off’. Yes, there are many projects to be pursued. But for now, I’ve been focussed on gentle reconnection with my garden and allotment. Which, at this time of year, means seed-sowing. Meaning every available space – from greenhouse shelf to windowsill – is crammed with trays and pots in various stages of growth, from newly-sown to awaiting-plant-out-to-final-growing-position. All very life-affirming.

Even the hubby – a lifelong non-gardener – is getting in on the act, since a friend suggested a giant-pumpkin-growing competition via social media. Obviously he’s gone for the classic ‘Atlantic Giant’ – aiming to grow the best, and beat the rest. I myself meanwhile am on my usual mission to grow as many different types of beans as possible, using my own saved seed – from varying shades of climbing runner, borlotti and butterbean, along with all the other allotment plot ‘must haves’ – from squash to salad leaves to herbs and, of course, an array of flowers providing food forage for my bees.

Of my six overwintered bee hive colonies, four have survived. I say this to people and they’re like: ‘Oh no! Two of your colonies died!?’ Missing the point, that a certain percentage loss is a *normal* part of beekeeping. Honeybee colonies in the wild die all the time … we just don’t see it. It’s just nature. It is just what happens. Survival of the fittest, and all that. Yes, it is disheartening to open a hive for that first spring inspection and find them all dead. Conversely, it is an absolute joy to find a hive alive and buzzing with life. Hope for the future. The promise of good things to come. And we all need a bit of that now, don’t we. It is early days yet, but all four surviving colonies are looking good as we head towards summer. All could go horribly wrong of course – spring-into-summer is still a precarious time, for honeybee survival rates. A sudden cold snap, insufficient food forage; things can turn in a moment. So we will see. Time will tell. But I’ll be doing my bit to keep them fed and nurtured, with a purpose grown bee buffet.

One other thing I’m particularly excited about is the future direction of this blogsite … I’m currently developing a ‘Shop’ link, enabling online purchase of my honey and candles alongside a range of other items, mainly sourced locally from independent creatives, each of them located ‘somewhere in west Cornwall’. So watch this space. Good things are coming …

New Year, New Bee-ginnings … (Monday 8th February 2021)

Two months in, and a belated ‘Happy New Year’ to all. What a year 2020 turned out to be. What will 2021 bring?! Time will tell. For me inevitably this coming year will involve bees. And flowering plants. And words. And various creative projects … all to be revealed. Watch this space for updates.