At school with bees to find out how to protect our ecosystem
Have you ever wondered if you really know the purpose of bees in our ecosystem?
Beyond the production of honey, pollen, royal jelly, wax and propolis, there are plenty of reasons why humans and the plant world should not delude themselves into thinking they can do without them.
Bees are truly social individuals, living in a matriarchal community which they have skilfully created, in which they play specific roles, all of which are equally necessary for the survival of the entire hive family.
Theirs is a closed, protected and self-sufficient environment, reminiscent of the characteristics of the biodynamic organism. And it is precisely in the biodynamic farming method that they find a welcoming and unparalleled ally, because it is free from the use of chemical and aggressive insecticides on the plants they protect and fertilise.
In short: bees are an example of society, collaboration and aggregation, but also an untouchable bulwark due to their ability to regulate the ecosystem and to promote and increase the results of agricultural production.
We owe a lot to them and, with them, it is essential to continue to safeguard biodiversity.
A strong identity, in the interest of all: the successful collaboration of bees in society
Small, wary and self-effacing, bees are a category of insects that could teach us a masterful lesson on a worthwhile "being together".
First of all, it should be pointed out that they live in a family and they work and act daily in order to protect it. They are all daughters of a single mother, the queen bee, and respond to her impulses according to a very precise pattern of roles and castes.
In the wild, they choose to build their honeycombs inside protected cavities, such as trunks, recessed rocks or hard-to-reach crevices. Man raises them and sets up comfortable little houses for them called beehives, without sticking his nose in as regards the floor plan or the delicate assignment of the rooms.
Each cell has different dimensions, depending on the family member it will house: the drone (the male, idle and responsible only for mating with the queen), the worker bees (the female daughters who are the pillars of the hive) and the queen herself, the mother and guide of the common house.
Living together, cultivating their relational strength, is not a choice for bees: alone they would not survive, even in the presence of food and water.
Why is the hive a (super) organism?
The human body is a living organism with many vital functions.
On this, we all instinctively agree.
The digestive, respiratory, skeletal, muscular, immune systems etc. all work within it. With different skills, of course, but all with the same degree of importance.
Well, bees in their hive perform these same tasks in an orderly and efficient manner. Believe it or not, there are cleaners, explorers, foragers, nurses, guards, wax-makers and even undertakers.
Each one belongs to the caste of the worker bee and could be compared to a cell, or to an organ, of this special super entity. All their activities, large or small, are geared towards the functioning of this microcosm.
The queen bee is the undisputed centre of their world: the only fertile female in the colony and the one who tells the others, by means of pheromones, what to do and when to do it. The central and reproductive system of a society designed in its image and likeness.
The life of bees is extremely variable.
The workers last 30-40 days in summer and up to 6 months in autumn. The queen lives more than 3 years, but as she grows older, she loses reproductive capacity and thus authority and vigour.
Bees in the Ortofficina: an ideal habitat to live in and to protect
Let's start with one premise... by leaving the hive, bees play a role that also involves risks.
Domestic and wild bees are responsible for about 70% of the pollination of all living plant species on the planet and provide about 35% of global food production. How? Through entomophily (i.e. pollination carried out by insects).
The flowers and plants on which they rest, however, are often contaminated with poisonous pesticides that jeopardise their survival. Instead, the biodynamic agricultural method, which does not use these, maximises their usefulness: it lets them choose their trajectory and build a dense network in flight which, just like a hat, envelops and protects all the medicinal herbs on which they have paused. This sort of “cap” keeps away the bees from other swarms but also, and mainly, the other insects considered harmful to that plant species.
The medicinal plants grown in Ortofficina benefit from this natural and spontaneous insecticide, as well as from the productive power of pollination.
What is certain is that bees run no risks among its rows.
Swarming: a new family of bees to protect biodiversity
Inside the hive, it is true, the queen bee gives birth to drones and worker bees. But in order for the bee society to spread and continue, it is necessary to create other nuclei capable of creating the same courageous community. A reproduction, after all, squared.
Swarming is nothing more than the detachment of part of the hive from the hive of origin. It takes place when the old queen, depleted of her strength, is replaced by a young daughter ready to inherit her sceptre, but also when the swarm is orphaned and has to join another group. It requires a great deal of preparation and the prior choice of a suitable new home.
One thing is certain: without a queen, the swarm cannot survive.
In our Ortofficina farm, in the hills around Bologna, this fascinating phenomenon has occurred, leading a swarm to leave its old hive for the branches of a hawthorn tree, waiting to move to a new home to breed. Here's the video!
From this second base, they will continue to protect the species grown inside the farm’s perimeter that is the starting point of Oway's circular agriculture. And we will continue to ensure that they can stay here safely, so that they can maintain the balance of the ecosystem, fertilising and protecting the precious plant sources of our extracts and formulas.