Nec­tar points

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 Simple Things - - WEEKEND PROJECT - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy: JEN­NIFER MOORE

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.

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