flour + water + bees
It was a windy day, but we wanted to check on the colony to make sure they were adjusting to their new home.
The empty frames we added when we transferred the colony were almost completely full. We returned later in the day to add more frames.
“As stewards of this earth we certainly are called upon to become co-creators, not just to leave nature as it has been created. We have ennobled grasses into grains, created beautiful landscapes, and have introduced culture into nature as our human contribution. Up until very recent times these changes were achieved with the aid of deep wisdom of the creative forces of the cosmos, out of deep reverence and love for creation. These qualities seem to be lacking more and more, and our motives, not only our senses, have become impoverished. Now we let the microscope and the stock market, not the cosmos and ideals, dictate our actions: we want to save time, money, effort and discomfort; and we sow seeds of disharmony, illness and ultimately death.”
- Gunther Hauk, Toward Saving the Honeybee
In his book, Bee-Friendly Beekeeping: A Sustainable Approach, David Heaf delves deeper into the environmental and agricultural ethics of beekeeping. He outlines four distinct approaches (dominator, steward, partner and participant) and acknowledges that depending upon individual circumstances, the boundaries of these approaches may, at times, becomes blurred. The ethical matrix which Heaf puts forth takes into consideration the health and welfare, freedom and fairness of the bees, the beekeeper, consumers (of honey primarily) and what he called the biota, or living environment. Striking a balance between the interests of all involved is our greatest challenge. I would love to say that there’s an easy (and easily defensible) position to take on this – beekeepers tend to be quite tenacious in backing up the choices that they make – but I believe that we are living in interesting times in which we must tread lightly – we are in the midst of a very sensitive transition from man as dominator of the natural world to man as, at the very least, steward of the natural world.
We are learning, as we go along. I believe the best that we can do is to be attentive and willing to make certain sacrifices for the overall wellbeing of our ecological systems.
If anyone is interested in exploring a more holistic approach to living with bees, Gunther Hauk will be speaking on Sunday, October 16th at this year’s Bioneers Conference in San Rafael!
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! -
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my past mistakes.
(excerpted from “Last Night, As I Was Sleeping” by Antonio Machado)
The colony here at flour+water has been growing steadily over the course of the spring. It was only a matter of time before they outgrew the nucleus hive they’d started out in. We enlisted the help of our friend, Tabitha Solomon, to build the new hive we would eventually move the colony into.
The hive that Tabitha built is known as a Golden Hive. Its dimensions are based on the Golden Ratio - a mathematical proportion closely related to the Fibonacci sequence found to be expressed in various natural forms from pinecones, flowers and tree branches to the human body. The Fibonacci sequence can even be found inside the honey bee colony: While the females in a colony both have two parents (a queen and a drone), the male bees are hatched from unfertilized eggs. The Fibonacci sequence is thereby expressed in the drone’s family tree: one parent, two grandparents, three great-grandparents, and so on!
Our decision to use this design over a more traditional one was based on our desire to provide the bees with an environment in which they could develop more naturally. As our primary goal is not to harvest honey but rather to observe and learn, we are less concerned with a system that allows for easy honey extraction and more interested in how bees live in nature without human interference. To this end, we are using foundation-less frames placed in a “one room” hive box – we are not using separate honey supers, brood boxes or queen excluders to divide the space within the hive. The bees have free range to raise brood and to store honey and pollen wherever they like. As the colony grows, I will add more frames.
In July we received our hive – Tabitha did an amazing job using locally sourced, untreated wood. Finally, it was time to move our friends into their new digs. We transferred the colony on a sunny day in July:
The transfer went smoothly and the colony looks happy, healthy and well prepared for the rainy winter months ahead!
A bit about bees at flour + water, from our resident Bee Lady, Miss Niki Shelley:
As people in the food industry, our initial interest in bees was motivated, unsurprisingly, by the exciting prospect of producing our own honey for the restaurant. Our investigations, however, led us to an unexpected place.
Through photographer Amanda Lane we met Michael Thiele, an holistic apiculturist in Sebastopol with a much different take on our relationship with bees. After spending time with Michael, we began to view the honeybee and our endeavor to keep them, as something bigger than the honey we’d originally planned to harvest.
The honeybee is a vital facet of our agricultural ecosystem – we depend on them to pollinate over 30% of the produce we consume. In the fall of 2006, what has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder became a hot topic in the media. Beekeepers across the United States that year reported losses of 30% of their hives with some beekeepers reporting losses up to 90% of all of their colonies. Looking for an answer has led some to re-evaluate the way in which we live with bees.
Focusing on sustainable and organic agriculture at Flour+Water, it was a natural progression for us to endow the honeybee with the same respect we have for the animals and produce we use in the restaurant. This meant encouraging the hive to operate and evolve in a much more natural manner; to refrain from treating with pesticides, to build free hanging comb without the use of foundation – to interfere as little as possible and to let the bees do what they know is best for their own health and well-being. This also meant dramatically scaling back our expectations for harvesting honey.
We are currently in the process of letting the bees teach us what they need in order to thrive. The bee program at Flour+Water is very much an experiment in sustainability. The gift of pollination is of much greater importance to human survival than that of honey – the bees are telling us that, unless we are willing to re-evaluate our own sense of self, as well as our relationships with, and expectations of, the natural world, we could find ourselves in a very bleak situation.
Interested in learning more? Check out The Melissa Garden or email email@example.com
Our first look inside the Nuk
We are curious to see how they are doing, and particularly if they are building comb in line with the frames as we will be moving them to their permanent home in a few weeks.Share Tweet
Photographs by Amanda Lane
Please join us for the opening of In Honor of Melissa: a unique collaboration between Photographer Amanda Lane, Bee Whisperer Michael Joslin Thiele, and flour + water.
“In Honor of Melissa” transports us into the real lives of bees, revealing their inner treasures and their relevance for human culture, global well being and survival. How can the plight of the honey bees be an impulse for renewal and necessary ecological change? How can we all become part of saving the honey bees?
Opening Reception: Saturday May 14th 11:00am to 3:00pm
Flour + Water 2401 Harrison St. (at 20th St)
Presentation by Michael Joshin Thiele of Gaia Bees 11:30am & 1:30pm
Meet the Artist Amanda Lane of Camera Locavora