2019 Grateful 14: Bee lesson

I’m not quite sure what we’ve done to deserve such glorious weather in October. Sunshine, blue skies, and 22 degrees. Shorts and t-shirt weather, as long as you stay in the sun. Absolutely fab. It’s the sort of weather that begs to be walked in. 

The corn has been cut so the field is navigable. It hasn’t rained in days so the ground is hard. The winter wheat has been planted so the views are flat. Which is why I noticed the peculiar copse for the first time. We walked by it, heading towards the island, and didn’t pay it much attention. But on the way back, I noticed what it was – trees on three sides making an alcove for a buzz of beehives. How had they gone unnoticed? Judging by the peeling paint, they’ve been there for a while. How had I missed them?

I’m very fond of bees. I don’t like honey, but I’m fond of bees. But there are many types of bees and had I to choose a favourite, it’d be the bumble bee. I think. My five-year plan includes reseeding a field of flowers just for the bees.

Einstein has often been cited as saying:

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

He didn’t say it, though. Or maybe he did but there’s not record anywhere of him saying it. [For a fascinating account of who might have said what, check out the Quote Investigator… one of my favourite sites.] But that Einstein didn’t say it or mightn’t have said it, doesn’t make it untrue. We need bees. The services they render to humans in pollinating is calculated by, wait for it, ‘working out the cost of having humans do the work’. Imagine. And it runs into billions (of dollars). Annually.

There’s been plenty of bytes and column inches devoted to the precarious situation our bees have found themselves in. CCD was being touted as the end of time a couple of years ago:

Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.

But apparently, CCD is on the decline. It’s still there, but other factors killing off the hives are harsher winters, pesticides, and stress. Yep. Worker bees are not immune to stress. I hadn’t realised that

at dead of night the beekeepers drive their ’nomadic’ hives to the forests, and leave them in situ for the 10-15 days that the trees or flowers are in full pollination. Then they drive the bees home, and extract the riches by cold pressing.

According to the US EPA, transporting bees to multiple locations for pollination might be a contributory factor to CCD. Humans travelling all over the place to work might take a lesson from this. Note to self duly made.

A piece in Daily News Hungary reported recently that

In one particular region of Hungary called Kiskunság, there are 124 different bee species identified, meanwhile in Holland, only 4.
Not good news for the Dutch. But good to see that bees are holding their own in Hungary. It’s hard to drive through a village hereabouts and not see a sign saying honey for sale. Or if not the word méz, then at least a picture of a bee. Hungarian Acacia honey is quite famous because of the many Acacia trees that sport a white blossom for a few short weeks each spring. Again, something I didn’t know, not being a honey fan.
China tops the list as the world’s largest producer of honey (some 650 000 tons annually) And Hungary is the third largest honey producer in the EU, after Romania and Germany, with  21 565 beekeepers holding 1.237 million hives in 2018 producing 22 000 tons of honey. And one of those 21 565 beekeepers keeps their bees along my walk.
I’m not sure why I’m so impressed with this. Perhaps because all too often we don’t see the bigger picture. That beekeeper may well think that they’re just harvesting honey – but when their product is added to that of the other 21 564, it all adds up. That big-picture message and how we all contribute to the wealth of our respective worlds (and not just in terms of money and resources, but in the intangibles, too) are often overlooked, replaced by self-effacing claims that we don’t do much at all. There’s a lesson there, one I needed to learn … again. And I’m grateful for it.
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  1. […] Andrea found a swarm of bees earlier this year and went to the local beekeeper Dezső-bácsi for advice. He helped her catch them and gave her a hive to house them. They got to talking. In his seventies, he has a couple of hundred hives around the village which is home to many acacia trees but he’s getting past it. His kids aren’t interested in taking it over. But Andrea is. Under his mentorship, she plans to learn the trade and start producing honey.  […]

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