We attended a biological bee keeping course in Coimbra botanical garden, the course wassplit into 7 Saturdays spread over 6 months, it took you through all the different aspects ofbeekeeping, from introducing a swarm to harvesting honey, to diagnosis and action in thecase of disease and the various products that can come out of the hive & what you canmake with them etc. We were lucky enough to be able to pay for the course by doing anexchange for helping at the botanical garden (we did juggling, balloons and face painting ata pumpkin party and gave plants and help to prepare for another course).Our tutor Harald Hafner is a full time bee keeper with 200 hives he was first trained inAustria and has also worked in Dominican Republic helping the locals start bee keeping.
In the first session we were introduced to We were then given an introduction to themelifera iberica, the Portuguese native equipment necessary for bee keeping andbee, and told the importance of the shown 3 forms of bee hive.melifera species or honey bee not onlyfor the many products which theyproduce but also for pollination of 78% ofthe insect pollinated plants. Lastly we sited a hive, learning what factors to take into account and the best orientation to have the door hole.
In the second session we focused on creation of a bee garden and learnt about what types of nectar & pollen producing species are necessary for the bees to have nearby.Then we created a beegarden in the botanicalgarden with fruiting trees &a set of small ponds as it isvery important that thebees have water close by allyear.
In the third session we learnt aboutthe 3 types of bees in the hive,worker, drone and queen, aboutthe processes of bee birth from eggto larva to pupa to bee and that theworker takes 21 days to form, thedrone 24 days & the queen 16 days.We looked at the anatomy of thebees and their functions within thehive. We also learnt about thereasons for and signs of a swarmand how to use the swarmingmechanism to multiply your hives. Then we had our first contact with the bees, spotting all the things we had just learnt and did some routine work with the bees.
On the fourth saturday we learnthow to diagnose commondiseases and how to treat them,organically and biomechanically. We learnt about varroa and how to manage and live with this largely unavoidable mite, that in the warm seasons breeds at an incredible rate and can literally suck the life out of the hive.Then we worked with the bees again, this timeremoving some drone brood as a bio-mechanicalintervention to reduce the number of varroa. Wealso created some new swarms in smaller swarmboxes.
The fifth session was all about the products froma hive and the myriad ways in which they can beused, whether to eat to the great benefit of ourhealth, specific medicinal uses and even makingcandles, polish and waterproofing. We learntabout, Honey, Pollen, Wax , Propolis, Bee Venomand Royal Jelly We then had a delicious taster of the honey which was being gathered in the hives, eating big chunks of honey comb and feeling a bit like Winnie the Pooh. We also saw a demonstration of how to make a healing balm using propolis which had already been prepared as a tincture, wax, olive oil and honey. We each received a jar of his balm and we have found it to be really effective for every kind of burn, cut, sting or dry skin condition. We then continued the honey bonanza and had a tasting session of four different honeys from different seasons.Finally we visited the hives to observe the state of the bees,replace some honey filled frames which we hadn’t managedto eat and remove some more drone cell frames to continuethe control of Varroa.
On the last day of this course we had a honey harvest celebration, watching and being involved in the collecting of the frames, spinning off or pressing out of the honey, sieving and jarring.The honey was particularly specialbecause it had all the diversity, pollenand nectars of the botanical gardenand the many surrounding parks andgardens of Coimbra. It really wasdelicious and we ate so much and alsogot to take our own jarred sample It was the perfect end to a reallyhome with us at the end of the day enjoyable course, that we would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about bee keeping. Lowarn particularly enjoyed that last day as he got the chance to go crazy on the liquid gold as it came out of the press and centrifuge and buzz around with honey happiness for the rest of the day.
This is the Top bar hive Josh built.We got the design for it from The backyard hive company, it is a Golden Meanhive and is based upon the dimensionsof the lower half of a pentagram. Wechose this style of hive because itboasted max honey production with themin size hive.
Bee Tea – Instead of the conventional smoker we decided to try another method ofdistracting the bees when working in the hive. This is to spray a fine mist of slightly sweetherb tea which not only wets their wing, making it impossible to fly, but also boosts theirhealth. We partly choose this method because we wanted to see if it would help withkeeping down the number of Varroa and also because we felt that using smoke was quite aviolent way of approaching the bees, akin to a fire alarm going off in your home everycouple of weeks. But with the tea, they seam to really like it and are a lot less aggravatedby it. It’s more like being bathed in your one of your favourite foods but a food thats goodfor you too.Bee Tea RecipeTake one large hand full of seasonal fresh herbs favouring plants in flower (with apredominance from the Thyme and Mint family, but it can also include Sage, Comfrey,Yarrow, Cleavers, Nettle & Rosemary - not too much rosemary as it bitters the tea). Add thisto 3 litres of boiling water and leave to simmer for 5 mins and stand for 10 mins then strainthough a sieve. Put 1 litre into the pump sprayer for the bees, which is more than enoughfor an hour of work in the bee yard (of the other two litres we all drink some as a healthboost and make kombucha with the rest). To this litre add two teaspoons of fructose orhoney and shake to thoroughly mix, this combination calms the bees & gets them busylicking the tea off themselves. Also to this, at certain times, if there are signs of growth invarroa populations, add a couple of drops of both Thyme & Peppermint essential oil.If you want to know if you’ve got the tea right then taste it, it should be strong but notunpalatable.
Bee Keeping and Social Networking Rosie goes bee keeping in ColmealBee Keeping is a practise which is very much alive here in the Serra of Central Portugal. Afew months after arriving in this area I was able to attend a free 50 hour bee keeping coursein Colmeal, the local village. This was the first course of it’s kind run by an association calledADIBER in this Junta (Local council) and it was attended by local people, many of whom werealready keeping bees or their families had done so for many generations.The course was taught in Portuguese so for improving my communication skills it wasfantastic. It was also an incredible way to become involved with the local community,something which is really essential to any functioning system. I met the Presidente andvarious other key workers from the Junta plus many people from the village and surroundingareas. It really helped to start making connections with people and for them to not see meas so much of a stranger. This aspect alone made the course hugely worthwhile.In terms of structure, the course started on 24th Jan and ran for four weeks, three days aweek with sessions from 6 until 10 in the evening. This was quite intensive for both Joshand I as I was reaching brain meltdown with so much Portuguese and Josh was dealing withgetting Lowarn to bed on his own when Lowarn was previously only used to me. However,the challenge was beneficial on all accounts.
As for the content, the course was very informative in describing many fundamental aspectsof bee keeping such as the anatomy, behaviours and life cycles of the three different bees inthe hive, optimum site and orientation for a hive, traditional beekeeping, protective clothesworn, necessary climactic conditions and personal mental state beneficial to visiting andopening the hive. It would be fair to say that a lot of the methods prescribed formaintaining the health of the hive and dealing with the bees (for example forcing bees toswarm by killing the queen in order to multiply the number of active hives) were fairlyconventional and largely focussed at the commercial beekeeper. There was a heavy relianceon chemical treatments and the methods seemed, to me, to be forcing the bees intomassive production rather then working with their natural habits and traits to enable themto be healthy and numerous and hence highly productive by default.In summary, I was very grateful to have the opportunity to attend this course, it was a greatway to kick start our learning about bee keeping, I supplemented my learning by readingbooks in English which we already had. The course gave me some useful information aboutthe basics and also an insight into conventional methods. It was also very positive to be partof this new venture in the local area and to add my support in numbers to the possibility ofit happening. The fact of attending the course may help in official ways at a later date and Imay still find use for some of the strategies taught at some time.
We also had a one day outing to visit the apiaries of the teacher and seeactive hives in a few different situations. This got me into the local paperand meant further contact with the other course participants.
Bee GardensAs shown in the example from the botanical garden, it is possible and of great value incertain situations to create a bee garden planted out with pollen and nectar givingplants and trees and ensuring a supply of flowers throughout as much of the year aspossible. However, rather than creating a specific bee garden, we have decidedinstead to compile a list of plants that we might use throughout our land design oncewe have one. We feel that in any design we made, a bee garden would also servemany other functions and at times would be a forage zone for food crops and culinaryand medicinal herbs and a fodder space for the chickens and the horse (in some partsand at certain times), it could also have some aquaculture with fish. All in all,personally, we would provide for the bees and their needs in block plantingsthroughout a design, putting certain species in places where they serve as many otherpurposes as possible, e.g. Placing a line of willow pollards along permanent fences atthe edge on pasture, giving shade & extra chop and drop feed for the horse, providingcraft materials & fuel for the rocket stove, stabilising the slope, cleaning ground wateras well as being an early source of pollen and nectar for the bees.
Trees Climbers Bee Plants Shrubs Herbaceous•Crab apple & Apple (Malus •Grape •Eleagnus species – Autumn Olive, •Strawberry sylvetris) •Kiwi Goumi Berry... •Thyme•Locust •Passionfruit •Lavender •Bee balm•Orange (citrus spp.) •Wisteria •Rosemary •Mint•Pear (Pyrus commumis) •Pumpkins and squashes •Sage •Angelica•Peach (Prunus persica) •Peas •Raspberry •Borage•Apricot (Prunus armeniaca) •Runner Beans •Black current •Catnip•Tulip tree •Cucumber •Gooseberry •Chicory•Plum (Prunus) •Ivy •Logan berry •Chives•Lime tree / Tilia •Honey suckle •Heather – The area in which we •Coltsfoot•Hawthorn •Jasmine live is very rich in wild heather all •Common Mallow•Willow over the mountains. •Cornflower•Cherry (Prunus avium) •Bramble – W •Corn Marigold•Chestnut (Castanea sativa) •Broom – W •Corn Poppy•Almond ( Prunus dulcis) •Buddleia •Dandelion•Alder Bulbs and Tubers •Blackthorn •Sunflower•Elder •Holly •Evening Primrose•Mulberry (morus spp) •Bluebell •Hyssop •Field Beans•Acacia Species •Crocus •Mahonia •Flax•Hazel (Corylus avellana) •Grape Hyacinth •Wild Clematis •Forget me nots•Horse chestnut •Snowdrop •Snowflake •Golden Rod•Maple •Globe thistle•Poplar •Squill •Solomon’s Seal •Himalayan Balsam•Rowan •Honesty•Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) •Hollyhock •Lupin •Marjoram •Meadowsweet •Nasturtium •Self heal •Sweet Violet •Valerian •Vipers Buglos – W •Clover •Woad