The Bees and Trees project is a core focus internationally for Steiner/Waldorf Schools for the Waldorf 100 celebrations this year. If you would like more information about the Waldorf 100 Bees and Trees Project, please have a look a the Waldorf 100 website https://www.waldorf-100.org/en/project/bees-trees/
Right from the beginning, 50 years ago, Lorien Novalis School has made bee keeping an integral part of the curriculum, and a learning experience for students. One of the school’s founders, Alan Whitehead was an enthusiastic bee keeper and spread his knowledge of bees across the school. Current principal, Norman Sievers took up beekeeping under Alan’s wise instruction and other staff have followed on, learning and sharing the beautiful ways of the bees with the classes.
A couple of years ago the school bee program was reignited, and the 2018 school fair was focussed around a bee theme. By the end of the year the school had had two new strong hives, housed and working across the property.
This year, with the first hints of spring, the bees have swarmed already despite this being extremely early in the year.
Many people walking by as Norman was catching the swarm, had lots of questions about how this process works.
If a hive of bees has a strong Queen, she can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a single day. The number of bees in a good hive might reach 50,000. This makes living very tight, and it is difficult for the Queen to connect with each bee. So the hive may split, with the Queen flying off with a swarm of 15,000 to 20,000 bees, leaving behind a new Queen to take over the hive.
The swarm flies out of the box and forms a large cloud waiting for their Queen. When the queen flies out she will lead the swarm off, usually to a nearby branch to gather together. The queen will settle and all the bees will cluster tightly around her to protect her, and await her instructions. The bees may remain there for 1 or 2 days while scout bees fly out to find a suitable home for the swarm. They return with messages for the Queen and she will then fly off leading the bees to their new home.
This waiting period is the opportune moment for the swarm to be caught and offered a new home in a bee box.
Catching the swarm is relatively easy if the swarm can be reached, the bees are usually quite calm as they have filled up with honey before swarming. They rarely sting whilst swarming and are usually very pleasant to work with, almost appreciative of the beekeeper’s efforts to help them find a settling place.
Once they have settled into the hive, the workers get busy building new honeycomb and the Queen prepares for her mating journey.
This is one of the truly amazing aspects of the life of a swarm. The Queen will fly out from the hive towards the sun and the male bees fly off after her. She flies higher and higher until only one strongest drone is left.
Bees are not only an essential part of the matrix of nature for fertilisation of plants, but they also are very willing partners in the companionship of nature for humans.
The stings of bees can cause some people major problems, however if we work with bees in the right way and are particularly mindful of their needs, we can build a very special and rewarding relationship with them.
True environmentalism is not about politics but about how we build a companion relationship to nature and this means interacting with it, not just looking at interesting nature programs on television.
With the use of agricultural chemicals and particularly pesticides across the world, bees and other insects, are dying out at an alarming rate and while we often look at insects as a pest, we must consider the important role that they have in maintaining the fabric of nature.
We have a responsibility to take affirmative action in protecting and enlivening the environment and the bee keeping program at Lorien Novalis School is an excellent way to do this.
This story and images come from Lorien Novalis School, for more information visit the school’s website www.Lorien.nsw.edu.au or visit in person during their upcoming spring fair and open day on 31 August, 2019.
For information about how your school can get involved in a bee project the Weleda Bee project has some excellent resources.