Do you like bees? Would you like to find out more about beekeeping in a city? If you do, I have some exciting news! Through monthly updates, urban beekeeper Erica will let us in on the fascinating world of bees in a city. As the seasons pass by, we will see what life is like for a bee and for a beekeeper. Starting this month with a short introduction of Erica.
Who are you?
“My name is Erica and I live in the Dutch city of Groningen. I live there with my husband Maarten and our two children. In my daily life I’m a graphic designer.”
When did you start keeping bees, and why?
“I have always enjoyed watching all the birds, flowers and bees in our surroundings. My aunt had a couple of beehives, which got me fascinated by the lives of bees. When, later on, I had my own rooftop terrace, I was thrilled to see a lot of bees and bumblebees humming around. I spent hours sitting on my knees in front of the insect hotel. Just looking, taking photographs and sometimes even filming those amazing little beings. Some time later, an amazing opportunity presented itself when I could participate in a course on Urban Beekeeping. It was such a logical next step that I hardly had to think about it! That was in 2013. The course gave a good preparation to starting up a bee colony, so last year, together with a friend, I have bought two hives. Then the real beekeeping began!”
Normally bees are kept on the countryside, is it very different to have them in a city?
“Well, the beekeeping in itself is nothing different from the countryside. For the bees, it’s something else. I have a beautiful place for my bees, in a park in one of Groningen’s suburbs. They live there in a paradise with lots of flowering trees, shrubs and smaller plants. Compared to when they would live on the countryside, I think my bees can get more food here and that their diet is more varied as well. A common view in the countryside are these enormous fields of just one crop. Such a one-sided diet will weaken the bees. Just like a lot of the pesticides used by farmers are also very harmful for bees. So under the current conditions, I think you could say that in general bees in the city are better off than their kin on the countryside.”
What has been your most memorable event in bee-keeping so far?
“One particular sunny day made room for quite an adventure. I went by the hives just to check if everything was okay. I lifted the cover like I always do, not expecting anything weird. But to my shock the hive looked absolutely overcrowded and the bees were just about to go swarming. I quickly checked if there were any “swarm cells” present, and yes, they were most definitely there! Those swarm cells contain newly developing queens and as soon as one of the cells is sealed, the old queen will fly off with half the hive. You definitely don’t want that, so rapid action was required! Luckily, some people could give me a hand and about four hours later, my hive was saved. What an experience that was!”
That was it for this first update. Next month, Erica will let us know how the bees are doing and I will share a delicious recipe with honey with you!