Monday, 28 April 2014

A Bee in My Bonnet!

The latest bee blog from Martha Kearney. Follow the seasons and gain a unique insight into the world of beekeeping with Martha Kearney, BBC journalist and beekeeping enthusiast. Martha has raised awareness of the honeybee's plight, notably through the BBC 4 series “The Wonder of Bees”.

I was asked to give a speech recently in my new role as President of the Classical Association and decided to pick the theme of beekeeping in antiquity with the title Mellis Caelestia Dona, the heavenly gift of honey. That comes from the most famous bee poem of all time - Virgil's Fourth Georgic. As well as being beautiful verse, this also contains remarkably good beekeeping advice including the best plants to have nearby, to use smoke to calm the bees and the need for a source of water. He does get a bit nutty about producing bees from the carcass of a dead ox which was known as Bugonia in ancient times. If you've ever looked at a golden syrup tin you'll get the idea. They used the image of a dead lion from a Biblical story. Nonsense of course as honey bees hate carrion.

Bees were popular from the most ancient of times. There are pictures of beekeepers in Egyptian temples from four and a half thousand years ago.

And take a look at this beautiful brooch from the Minoan civilisation on Crete.

Virgil was only one of several ancient authors who wrote on bees - Homer, Hesiod, Aristotle, Cato, Pliny, Columella and Varro for whom the nasty varroa mite is named. I kept my other half informed about my research and told him one day that I had found a new word - mellarius which means beekeeping slave. "I already know the meaning of that word" he said drily.

You can see us both in action in episode 3 of The Wonder of Bees on BBC4 at 8pm on Monday night. The earlier ones are on the iplayer. This time we are extracting honey in a very much Don't Try This at Home way. I also meet a natural beekeeper who lets her bees swarm and doesn't use chemicals to treat for varroa. You can find more information here.

But many beekeepers will disagree with that approach. There is extensive information on the British Beekeepers association site here.

They also run a scheme called Adopt a Beehive for people who want to support bees with keeping them themselves.

If you have any thoughts on how the government can help honeybees and other pollinating insects, then there is still time to contribute to the consultation on the National Pollinator Strategy which ends on May 2nd. For more information on how the NFWI and WI members are getting involved in the campaign, and for details on how you can help, please visit the website.

If you have any thoughts on my blog or bees, do get in touch via Twitter @MarthaKearney

To read more from Martha, please visit her bee blog on the NFWI website.

1 comment:

  1. Great to have an easiily accessible WI blog, but can you make it easier for us to find out about new posts please - maybe a Bloglovin (or other bog follower) button that we can sign up for updates?