‘Learning from the Bees’

I am still ‘buzzing’ from a fantastic weekend in The Netherlands with over 350 other enthusiastic and inspiring ‘bee people’ from all around the world. Over 50 nations were represented, sadly minus the 12 delegates from Palestine, involved with the ‘Bees for Peace ‘programme in Israel, who were refused visas by the Dutch authorities.

Rande & I 'buzzing' after the opening of the conference
Rande & I ‘buzzing’ after the opening of the conference

I drove there with my fellow bee buddy, Rande, which gave us an extra 30 hours to discuss and disect all that we had learned. By the time we returned home we were too tired to explain to our hubbies just what exactly we did over those three full days.

“Bees are the beacons of environmental conditions”. Tom Seeley


Professor Tom Seeley was one of the ‘headline’ speakers, and as I’d heard him speak at last Autumn’s ‘national Honey Show’, I was more interested in meeting Jacqueline Freeman, from ‘Spirit bee’ in USA. her book ‘The Song of increase’ inspired me greatly when I first read it last year, and i was eager to meet her in person , and hear what else she has to say about bees since writing her best selling book.
My other ‘missions’ were to catch up with Jenny and Karin from ujubee in South Africa, and to find a supplier of sun hive parts so that i could make more sunhives, both for myself and clients interested in the Natural Beekeeping Trusts signature hive.

I was also looking forward to meeting up with one of my Dutch ‘bee sisters’ Rinske, who was also holding a workshop during the conference.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel Landgoed Zonheuvel, we had entered ‘bee time’. exhibits, displays and so many wonderful like minded bee people gathered together to learn and inspire each other. Skep making guru Ferry had a magnificent display of rye woven skeps, along with a Turkish tubular hive, similar to the date palm hives I saw in Oman.

Rinske's hive www.immeke.nl
Rinske’s hive www.immeke.nl

Bees are a spring of wonder and the more you drink, the stronger the flow’ Karl Von Frisch

With almost one hundred participants in the form of art, hives, books and speakers it would be impossible to give a detailed review in a short blog post, so i shall just summarise my favourite quotes and most moving moments.

Astrid Schoots and her welcoming and closing musical sessions. She had us all humming and singing in rounds which not only opened our voical chords, but also our hearts and souls. During the closing session, Ferry (Skep master)  and Michael Joshin Thiele ( Apis Aborea USA) chose to sing a baritone beneath our higher toned hums and I felt I was immediately in the heart of a bee hive with the deep buzz of the drones surrounding me. It was such a powerful and moving experience that all of those around us were almost too overwhelmed to continue singing.



Honey Highway www.honeyhighway.nl
Honey Highway www.honeyhighway.nl
Matthias Wucherer, Netzwerk Bluehende Landschaft, DE
Matthias Wucherer, Netzwerk Bluehende Landschaft, DE

Dutch and Global pollinating and planting initiatives. Sonne Copijn & Tom van de Beek,( Bee ribbons & national sowing seed days on April 22nd)  Deborah Post ( Honey Highway), from the NL, and then Terry Oxford ( Urban BeeSF, USA), Monica Barlow with the bees for development and Monmouthshire bee map,where the council received more phone calls praising the abundance of wild flowers as well as German initiatives where over 1million square HA of land has been planted with organic bee friendly plants, not only brightening up the countryside, but providing much needed food for both honeybees and other pollinators, often forgotten.

Heather Swan, author of ‘Where honey bees thrive’ talking about bees used to detect bombs and minerals.

A research project in Shefield, UK which found that bees can actually travel 14km (8.4miles) in the quest for forage.





‘When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change’. physicist Max Planck quoted by conference host

Jonathan Powell.

Ferry's skeps
Ferry’s skeps

‘Bees are connected to worlds bigger than the world I can see’ Dr Johannes Wirz Switzerland and ‘Bees live in a world of abundance’

Ferry's displays and skeps
Ferry’s displays and skeps


It takes 6-7 years of permaculture to restore toxic ground.

Bees in the wild evolve grooming behaviour and natural resistance to varroa, without treatment. Tom Seeley.

Bees thrive in smaller hives, 25 -60 litres, and naturally swarming.





‘The Biggest threat to bees is Beekeepers’ Professor Peter Neumann Bern University.


Dr Peter Neumann's top tips
Dr Peter Neumann’s top tips

‘Bees are non-digital’ Michael Thiele








the most moving session in the conference was for me the last session on Sunday morning ‘Spirit of the land’ with Karmit Even-Zur of bee Time, talking about artists connecting with bees and the touring exhibition . Johannes Sturm of Switzerland who had us imagining the colours of roses and cornflowers and asking the question of ‘who are you?’ when we approach the hive. Then the speaker who touched my soul on such a deep moving level that I was overwhelmed with emmotion and my eyes filled with tears, of release, understanding and pure love of the bees and all that we are connected with. Karsten Massei of Switzerland spoke using Michael Thiele as a translator, giving us a pause between each statement, perhaps that pause was what made his words so powerful and connected to so many of us on such a deep level. he spoke of the bees ‘skin’. As a hive of 50,000 bees all acting ‘as one body’, their skin reaches out into nature, where does it stop? When the colony retreats into it’s winter cluster, does the skin enclose them in the hive.

He posed the questions we should ask when in the presence of the bees:’ who am I?, Who are you? What do you need from me? Then in stillness and silence we must listen for the answer, it may not come from the buzz of the bees, or a sting, but the whisper of the trees, the rustle of the grass or the drops of rain. We must listen to all the sounds of nature which connect to our souls and give us the answers we all seek for  the happiness that only comes when fully connected to nature and all that we live in and amongst.

There is so much more to say about this conference and the so many wonderful souls we met. More importantly, there was so much felt and so much of that feeling that needs to be transferred into action. The bees do need us, but what we may not all be realising is that actually we need them more than they need us!


“You must not be afraid of us, we are not afraid of you. We can cope very

well without you but

you may not be able to survive without us” The Bees.







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