Natural beekeeping

There is a buzz about Park Garden…

Nestled among the carefully grown flowers of Flora’s Flower Garden are three wooden beehives. This garden, part of the central work space of Park Garden opposite Moontree, reflects the purpose of the department by providing flowers which are medicinal, perennial, beautiful, edible.

NaturalBeeKeeping3Park Garden focaliser Rona Ribeiro explained to me that Park Garden held a vision to transform the Findhorn Foundation into a sanctuary space for bees. This vision started coming to life four years ago as the garden team began working more consciously with bees, carefully choosing organic perennials that attract bees and building homes for them. Over the last few years Findhorn founder Dorothy Maclean has been holding a weekly bee meditation. “This understanding and conscious communication forms a key part to co-creating with nature,” says Rona.

Scattered around Flora’s garden high on the fence posts are insect boxes designed specifically to provide homes for solitary bees that do not produce honey like their hive cousins. For the honeybees the three wooden hives provide a home. The handmade beehives were created by John Salt, a local Moray beekeeper who kindly donated them to Park Garden. The hives were designed in a way that most closely mimics the bees’ natural environment.

Leslie Downie, a Park Garden volunteer, collected Flora’s current swarm from Forres using the traditional method of a hand woven basket. She has also made a traditional beehive, known as a skep, which is a woven basket covered in cow dung and mud, currently sited in the Original Garden. Going forward they would like to see swarms making such traditional structures their home.

NaturalBeeKeeping1Following a viewing of a film about mainstream beekeeping a few years ago, the team had their eyes opened to methods that did not sit right with them. With their current hives, the intention is not to cultivate honey but to provide a place where bees can simply be. The idea is that perhaps in a few years when the project is more developed they could start to collect some honey in the beginning of Spring when the bees have already taken what they need, to be for medicinal purposes. Rona shared with me that the human body can digest only a small amount of honey in 24 hours. Honey has historically been a rare and prized medicinal nectar, not a daily foodstuff as it is used today. Understandable, with the amount of work it takes to produce small quantities.

Recently a course on natural beekeeping was held at Park Garden. Natural beekeeper Phil Chandler does not use antibiotics nor subscribe to the mainstream production techniques which are akin to bee slavery. To find out more about Phil Chandler and his natural beekeeping methods please visit his website.


Rona & Phil (facing camera)

This approach is particularly relevant at a time when bees have been in decline. However, the efforts of Park Garden have been rewarded by not only their resident bees, but the sightings of huge swarms making their way to settle in The Park.

In the bigger picture Rona would like to see more bee-friendly environments and homes all over The Park moving forward with a relationship with the bees, co-creating and learning from them. The next step would be to bring in school groups and the local community to learn about the co-creation with bees and the value of natural methods over mass production.

There is something very soothing and meditative about watching the bees gently floating from flower to hive, enjoying doing what they do best in their own sweet time.

Sasha Angus

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