Urban Beekeeping: Lesson 1

There is something about beekeeping that to me, is as romantic as trees bejewelled with fruit. I think it appeals to my Anne-of-Green-Gables side complete with little white gloves, horses and unconditional promises. It also reminds me of holidays in KZN at my uncles farm where I chased lambs and walked through fields of white and magenta Easter Daisies. I often feel as though I’ve lived an utterly enchanted existence. 

Marjolijn Dijksterhuis and Richard Kats are a local couple that have taken to what has been termed Urban Beekeeping. The bee population in the world is fast declining and before the need to put bee’s on the endangered list becomes a reality, nature lovers, particularly in the US and the UK have taken to urban beekeeping. By placing hives on roof tops or in this case, at the bottom of the garden in Claremont, these passionate people are doing their bit not just for bees, but for the floral existence in general.
Marjolijn & Richard getting the smoker working
As a quick re-cap: bees are responsible for the pollination of all flowering plants. It is from these flowers that fruit and vegetables eventually stem from. Without bees, we no longer have flowers OR fruit OR vegetables. So yes, bee’s play a pivotal role in our ecosystem. 

What was once a hobby to Marjolijn and Richard has grown into a deep seated passion, which is audible and of course visible as they light up when they talk about the bees. Some interesting facts that they shared were about the species found here in the Western Cape that are different (special) because unlike other bee colonies, the Queen Bee can be reproduced from a Drone or Worker Bee, meaning that the hive is far more stable and self-sustaining. They also retold stories about the San people that had very close relationships with their hives and in their culture, the only reason for an altercation would be if one man tampered with another’s hive – a bee in one’s bonnet, perhaps? 
I don’t claim to be an expert within the realms of the natural sciences and to my city slicking self, the fact that bees EAT honey was a revelation. It seems that an almost battery farming practice is being used in hives around the world in which beekeepers harvest all the honey produced and then feed the bees sugar water. This not only decreases the healing properties of honey, but it’s also not so great for the busy bees who rely on the immuno-boosting powers of their nectar. 

The fair practices and respect that Marjolijn and Richard tends their hives with is evident in every bit of the honey produced. By allowing the hive to have their pick of the pollen in the area, the honey has a complex and multi-faceted aroma and taste. By sharing their honey with their neighbours, mostly as a way to include them in the process and reduce their need want to query the buzzing, they have started a little business. I do hope that their plans to create a brand of honey that is locally and organically produced, in a way that can be likened to Fair Trade, comes to fruition. 

If anyone would like to join this bee-conscious movement, please contact The Honey Bee Foundation & Products. They offer a two day course that will give you all the tools and knowledge to start you very own hive. 

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