The Bee project in Vale Bacias
The bee is a fascinating insect. In fact, more than a simple pollinator, it can be a teacher, a healer… and a real friend!
Bees have a special place in Vale Bacias. They are not kept with a goal of honey production. They are living here as members of our collective organism, working together with us to regenerate the land and make it flourish. Bees are essential caretakers of the earth, especially of the flora layers and the energy lines that cover the land. While gathering nectar and pollen on flowers, they redynamise the vital body of the earth.
Contact with bees offers a wide range of possibilities of research in various areas:
The size, shape and opening systems of the beehives make a big difference in terms of comfort for the bees and interference while opening. We are experimenting different types of hive bodies. (See specific document “Types of beehives”)
We have been planting thousands of trees during the last winters. Land regeneration goes together with increasing diversity as well as nectar supplies for the bees.
Treatment free beekeeping
Bees cannot find they own strength to face diseases and parasites if we constantly maintain them under treatment, may it be chemical or natural. When we let them do, they adapt to the situation, the weak genetic lines disappear and the ones who stay become stronger and healthier.
Every time the hive is open, the inner atmosphere of the hive is modified, requiring work for the bees to rebuild it afterwards. We reduce hive opening to a minimum and when it is done, it is in close contact with the hive Deva (the spirit of the hive).
Moon and stars have strong effect on bee behaviours. Special care is paid to the sky conditions while interfering with the hives.
Geobiology and bioenergy
Some places are more or less suiting to the bee needs, in terms of polarity, vitality and other energy datas. We scan the land in order to place the hives in the most beneficial spots, oriented following Earth energy lines.
Honey harvest is not a primary goal, nevertheless, when the bees are healthy and thriving without dependancy of any treatment, they might be willing to offer some honey!
Art and bees
Bees like art. They enjoy music, sound, dance… We observe as well that being in the field of the hive increases artistic abilities.
Sensory approach to the hive
The bee world offers an opportunity to develop our senses, through sounds, smell, taste and touch…
The hive aura is a beautiful place to meditate.
The constant humming of the hive is emitting frequencies that helps us to drift into alpha, theta or even delta brain waves, calming the mind and opening wider spheres of consciousness.
Some hives have specific healing qualities. On the picture you can see the BeeBed installed under the hive called Innana, a colony “specialised” in womb healing.
Shamanic approach to the Bee Deva
The Bee Deva, or collective soul of the bees, carries huge wisdom about community and nature cycles. Through drum journeys and other shamanic tools, we open our consciousness to receive various informations, insights and/or meaningful answers to our life questions.
Types of beehives
When we want to offer the bees a comfortable home, the first question we may ask is: What is the best hive shape suiting to a bee colony?
There are rare case where bee colonies set up in open air. This situation allows us to observe the natural egg-shape of the bee nest, like on the picture on the right (Bulgaria, picture from Antony Croft). In nature in Alentejo, honeybees dwell primarily in hollow trees.
Logically, bees prefer to live in round spaces. Indeed, sharp corners are difficult to heat. The air does not circulate as well in a cubic space as in a spherical space. Humidity gets stuck in the corners, inviting mould and undesirable occupants into the living space. Therefore, the ideal cosy home that a bee-tender can offer to her “tenants” is a round-shaped hive.
The sun hive is one of these 5-star hotels. Made out of straw and wood, it is one of the most bee-centric hives that exist, meaning that it focuses on answering the needs of the bees before the needs of the bee-keeper. Unfortunately, it requires lots of skills, time and specific material to built, so we just have one of them… for now.
The top-bar hive is more and more popular in alternative beekeeping. Indeed, it offers many advantages for the bee-keeper, and is relatively respectful for the bee intimacy. Easy to build, its design allows the hive to expand horizontally. One can add frames and extract honey combs from the sides without unsealing the preciously-balanced inner atmosphere of the nest area, thereby reducing disturbance when the hive is opened.
An octagon offers a compromise between circle and square, more easily built than a spherical hive for the human, and more easily heated than a cubic hive for the bees.
The traditional Alentejano hives are called ‘Cortiças’. Made out of cork oak bark, they imitate the natural bee dwelling space. They cannot be opened and are often drafty. They have a great appearance in the garden but don’t seem to be so attractive to the bees, who never chose any of them to settle in. The only I tried to place into a cortiça left after 2 days…
A Warre hive is a vertical top bar hive that uses bars instead of frames from which the bees build their own comb. The french Abbé Emile Warré designed this hive in the 1950’s after 50 years of research. He liked to call it “The People’s Hive” as it was easy to build and maintain, compared to the conventional hives. I don’t find it so practical, as it requires to lift up the upper boxes to add new boxes from below.
Lusitana and Reversivel hives
The conventional hives used in Portugal are the ‘Reversivel’ and ‘Lusitana’ square hives. Those hives are cheep and easy to get. They are used for the transition time with several modification that makes them more bee-friendly*. I prefer the Lusitana type, slightly bigger than the Reversivel.
*Cutting of the lower part of the comb to increase the nest space, use of wax starters to foster natural cell building, removal of metallic components, reduction of the entrance height…
Sandira was born in France, from a mother bee-keeper, bathing in the bee world from early age. During the last 5 years she has been exploring the interactions between spiritual, artistic and practical approaches of bee-care. The Bee is her main muse of inspiration in her painting and writing artwork. She learned to communicate with the Deva of the bees, with nature spirits and other presences. She has been living in Vale Bacias since 2015 and she currently cares for about 20 beehives of different communities and permaculture projects in Alentejo.