KEEPING BEES IS NOT ONLY REWARDING, IT’S MEDITATIVE, TOO, AS SUSTAINABLE BEEKEEPER JENNIFER MOORE EXPLAINS. HER BACK GARDEN BRIMS WITH NECTAR- RICH PLANTS AND HAPPY BEES
The story so far
When I moved into my 1950s cottage in East Sussex in 2008, the garden was mainly planted with shrubs. The house backs onto arable farmland and there are large areas of meadow along a former railway line nearby. To encourage bees, I replaced the shrubs with bee-friendly perennials and annuals. The arable farmland can be feast or famine for bees depending on the crop. I allowed the dandelions and clover to flourish and planted hundreds of early-flowering bulbs. This is a really easy way to help bees of all kinds; honeybees are efficient pollen- and nectar-gatherers and will out-compete other species, so it’s vital to provide enough food for all of them.
I have a background in agriculture and ecology and started keeping bees seven years ago, as I was fascinated by their behaviour. I am also a keen gardener, so it was a natural progression to get my own hive. The link between bees and plants is an exquisitely evolved relationship and I am always amazed at how flowers and insects have adapted to each other for mutual benefit.
How does it work?
Sustainable beekeeping can mean many things. For some it means keeping a closed apiary without having to buy bees from elsewhere. For others, it’s maintaining sufficient foraging opportunities so the bees can sustain themselves. For me it’s about focussing on the bees’ behaviour and managing them according to their natural instincts rather than honey production. If you own a bee colony, it must be responsibly managed, but the application of that management and amount of intervention can be varied according to your own circumstances and motivation for keeping bees.