Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver

Friday, 24 May 2013

Fricktal Bees :-)

Still a week to go before I leave Frick for my field work in China – Ningxia – a dry region in south of Inner Mongolia. Work-wise, I am quite prepared for the 30 interviews with the apple growers out there. These days I am sort of on my way to finalize the questionnaires for the farmer survey, some translation works have got done too. But what also takes time is to coordinate with the trading companies and my mentors and supervisor, they spread all over the world! Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, China… Internet and skype really make communication easier in this era of globalization. At the moment, what I worry the most is the language barrier. In Ningxia, Hui is the local dialect that most farmers speak. I can speak Chinese Mandarin, but not even fluent (Cantonese is my mother tongue...). I can imagine works would be more tough, when I don't speak the farmers' language at all. That also means it will take double time to finish an interview, which took me an hour in my trial interview. Can't even imagine a 5 hours RISE assessment (a sustainability assessment tool at farm level) will turn out to be 10 hours. I think both me and the interviewed farmer will gonna be K.O!!


Speaking about bee-keeping, there are quite many colleagues somehow either are bee-keeper (Der Imker), or find it appealing and plan to learn on their own. My colleague Sal keeps 40 honey bee hives on the Swiss mountain nearby Luzern. He’s a very experienced “Imker” and produces organic honey back in his home. I was lucky enough to be his “office-mate” for a week time, and got to know about ‘how honey is made from’. Before I didn’t really know how honey is produced, which I feel a bit shame of. This amazing insect or you can describe them as an “animal”, means so much to us the human being in terms of food production. More than 1/3 of our food depend on the pollination through bees. Bees are highly hierarchically organized in terms of their roles (job functions of worker bees, drones, and the Queen) within a colony or a bee hive. By collecting nectar and pollen from flowers to flowers - within different species and varieties of crops, plants or trees- they help to transfer pollen and facilitate reproduction of plant, which is known as the process pollination.

hope the bees will soon adapt to their new home

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

Worker bees are really hard-working little guys. They start life as a nurse bee nurturing brood (unborn bees, drones and queens). Other tasks include guarding the entrance of the colony, building honeycomb, ripening nectar to honey, packing pollen, cleaning the hive and carrying out the dead. The last and the most important task too, to fly out and look for nectar, pollen, water and propolis. During this time they would be eaten by birds or insects. And in industrialized conventional farms like almond, corn, wheat and soy plantations in California, bee colonies are disappearing without any traces because of several reasons. The most frightening is that chemical sprays are absorbed by the plant vascular system and contaminate the pollen and nectar that the bees collect and encounter. The chemicals disorient the bees and damage the homing ability of bees, that is why many bees lose their way back to their hives, and bee colonies slowly die out.   

Bee swarming

Back to Frick, this spring is apparently too cold and a bit windy for the Fricktal honey bees. We had only less than one week really sunny nice warm weather. When you feel that spring has finally come, she is gone the next day. It’s also not so easy for the bee keepers to control or predict bee swarming. During spring as the weather gets warmer, food become abundant and bee population grows fast in the colony. New queens are produced and finally only a single young new queen is raised by other bees. The old queen then is replaced, then she leads half of the colony includes the drones and worker bees to leave the hive and searches for a new home. Next time when you see bees cluster somewhere underneath a roof or within bushes of trees, don’t be panic, they are natural but could be quite aggressive sometimes. On sunny days, I followed Sal to the Bienen Stand (the bee house) nearby our office to control the bees. To check the number of queen cells and to see if there is a sign of swarming.
bee swarm

I really am grateful for having the chance to share the joy of keeping bees with Sal. But one big obstacle that I still have to overcome is…to avoid being stung!!

More about honey:

More than Honey - A "Swiss made" documentary about contemporary bee-keeping industry 

Der Imker - the bee keeper, a touching story about a Turkish bee-keeper who tells how his life and family had been changed by Turkish-Kurdish war that caused a turmoil in the country.

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