Bee part of itMay 24, 2010
Listening to UK news it seems that bees and bee-keeping are much in the news at the moment.
The BBC and the National Trust have come together to raise awareness of the plight of the bee, campaigning under the banner “Bee Part of It”. The National Trust, a UK charity which owns and protects over 450 historic properties across Great Britain, is placing new hive colonies on some of its properties.
The campaign is getting a fair amount of coverage right down to Martha Kearney, the anchor of the BBC Radio 4′s daily news programme World at One bemoaning the loss of her queen bee over winter in between commenting on the newly elected government. Happily someone was able to provide her with a replacement, via the post, and her hive is happy once more.
Over at the Times newspaper the weekly column, the Beekeeping Diary, following the trials and tribulations of their newbie beekeeper has become a surprise hit. He too lost his queen over the winter and received a replacement via the Royal Mail. Who knew that it was possible to pop a queen bee into a post box? For those interested just how to mail a queen see here.
Here in Cyprus beekeeping is a huge industry, but not a mainstream commercial one. It isn’t possible to buy local honey in any of the big supermarkets, to do that it’s essential to keep an eye out for roadside stalls or head into the mountain villages and find a small family-run stores.
As part of the reporting of the new National Trust bee hives there was a passing reference to the actual locations not being made public. The logic for this is that good hives are at risk of being stolen; hive rustling is a significant danger in the UK apparently.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to us as a result of the comments of some visitors a couple of years ago. They were over in Cyprus this time two years ago and we spent some time with them visiting assorted locations across the island. As we drove up towards Troodos they were shocked to see run after run of brightly painted hives by the side of the road, each group placed next to a lay by to allow convenient access for the hive owners. In the UK this would be madness, an invitation for someone to steal the hives, they said. Here, we observed, it’s perfectly normal. Hives are left by the side of the road, or at the side of a farmer’s field or wherever is convenient for both the bees and the hive owner presumably.
About a month or so ago we drove around part of Lefkara dam. The water levels were encouragingly high after the recent wet winter and the vegetation was fantastically lush and green. At pretty much every twist in the dam-side track we came across hives, dozens and dozens and groups of hives. Usually in Cyprus the hives are painted shades of blue; for reasons that aren’t clear a good number of the ones around the dam were in shades of yellow. Oddly some, no more than one in each group, was marked with what appeared to be a crucifix. In the photo below it can be seen in the top half of the middle hive. Is all the honey from that hive destined for the local church or the monks at a nearby monastery? Is this some sort of honey tithing? So many questions.
Today our garden is alive with the sound of bees once more. As far as we know the nearest hives are in a field about a quarter of a mile away on the drive into the village. There is someone wonderful in the knowledge that bees from those hives are pollinating our citrus trees, giving us enough lemons for the coming year, as well as proving lashings of honey.
To finish up, some bee facts.
- One bee would need to fly the equivalent of twice around the world to gather enough pollen to make a single jar of honey.
- 40% of the world’s crops rely on bees for pollination
- In the US alone bees are responsible for pollinating over $15 billion of crops per year with one mouthful in three directly or indirectly benefiting from bee pollination
- Einstein is said to have stated (though there is a question about the attribution ) that if the bee population dies the subsequent chain reaction will result in all life on the planet dying out within four years
To find out more about the “Bee Part of It” campaign click here.