The Darwinian Beekeeper
When I was young, my father would tell stories of his grandfather tending his bountiful garden, while his grandmother cooked, baked and preserved deliciously sun-ripened treats.
In my imagination, I would climb the fruit trees in mid-morning sun; tasting tart, almost ripe plums, crisp apples and rich pears; the sweet juice running down my chin. All were pollinated by busy honeybees!
It was home-produced fruit and vegetables, that fed the family throughout the year. The sweetest treat of all was the honey that came from the dozen colonies of bees.
I loved hearing about bees. Something so fascinated me about those buzzing social insects. How they knew where to find their food and working together to gather their stores for the winter, for example, when a bee goes foraging, she will only visit one single variety of flower on that flight. Amazing!
The Future of the honeybee is threatened
In 1992, the Varroa mite was inadvertently introduced to the UK. About ten years later, I was made aware of honeybees’ possible demise through media reports, and a real threat this posed to human food production. I asked myself, how was I going to fulfil my dreams of keeping bees if this happened?
Growing up in the West of England, and wanting to keep bees myself. I was fascinated by the contrasting energy of the beekeeper confidently going about his work, unperturbed by the buzzing cloud of insects, with the constant threat of being stung. I wanted to become the ancestor of my father’s stories. Would I be able to watch my own grandchildren pick strawberries that had been pollinated by my bees or have to explain to them I did nothing while the honeybee disappeared?