Living simply with Bees

The liveSimply group tin Ross and Monmouth were delighted to welcome renowned UN consultant, Nicola Bradbear, to the Priory in Monmouth on 4 May.

Nicola founded Bees for Development which works to assist beekeepers in developing countries.

Beekeeping can help families move beyond subsistence farming and their crops can improve thanks to increased bee pollination.

The group learned that honey bees have an amazingly long evolutionary history, evidenced from fossil records – including one discovered in 30 million year old shales from Germany. There are also superb fossils of our modern honey bee species, Apis mellifera, in amber-like materials collected in east Africa that are about 1.6 million years old.

Nicola Bradbear with bee hive (skep)

The earliest humans were hunter-gatherers who hunted honey bees for their honey, the most delicious of all natural foods.

This is still evident in the Hadza people of northern Tanzania.  Hadza men spend 4-5 hours a day in bee-hunting, with honey being their favourite food!

Nicola introduced us to Darwinian Beekeeping or natural beekeeping which seeks to foster colony health by letting the bees live as naturally as possible.  It’s centred less on treating the bee colony as a honey factory and more on nurturing the lives of the honey bees.

120 year ago, these words were written by Georges de Layens, a French apiculturalist:

“We cannot improve beekeeping by going further and further away from the bees’ natural tendencies.  Instead, select the hive model that is best matched to your locale, populate with local bees, and the results will speak for themselves.”

Bees for Development has been working in Uganda for twenty years with its current focus being to support Mount Elgon Women’s Honey Hub – a marketing initiative for women beekeepers.

The are many challenges to selling honey, with price just one factor.  Women are challenged to travel far to market and often lack the confidence to negotiate with honey traders.

The Honey Hub offers a local, safe and trustworthy outlet where they know they will sell their honey at a fair price without hassle.

CAFOD provides beekeeping equipment to many poor families, and the gift of a Happy Queen Bee is vital to set up the beehive.

Read how bees are helping Marta in Nicaragua – the honey the beehive produces helps break the monotony of a diet consisting mainly of staples like beans and rice.

It is also highly nutritious, and can help combat infections.  And how Anil in Bangladesh dreams of setting up his own business, keeping bees.

Bee house ready to provide a safe space for our wonderful bees


Respecting the bees and using them for practical purposes seems a good way to be responsible keepers of these small creatures, our greatest friends among the insects.

The Great British Bee Count starts on Friday 19 May and goes on until Friday 30 June.



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