How I am trying to save the World with Honey
16th August 2021
5 years ago I was tending my allotment when the sky was turned black by a swarm of bees. I had never seen that before so after my initial self-preservation instincts had subsided, did some research and established swarms happen when the bees have gorged themselves on honey and are fleeing the hive, often with a new queen to start a colony elsewhere. Whilst swarms may look alarming, they shouldn’t be feared because the bees find it harder to flex their abdomens to sting. Despite this, I can confirm through painful experience that they can still sting, so swarms should be left alone and reported to a beekeeper who will collect the bees in a box and take them away to look after. I reported the swarm to Dave who kept bees on my allotment and in return I was given a fabulous tasting jar of honey. This got me interested in beekeeping.
An old country saying is “a swarm in May is worth a bale of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly”. This relates to the productivity and nectar flows when new colonies progress well….in my case that was translated into a jar of honey!
I enrolled onto a course with the York & District Beekeeping Association. This comprised a theory course during Winter and a practical course in the Spring being mentored by an experienced beekeeper and was an excellent way to get into the hobby. I now have 8 colonies, manage the apiary on Bootham Stray and mentor new beekeepers.
So why am I writing about this? During the pandemic, like many people, I faced periods of lockdown and I was made redundant. Apart from being a very stressful time in my life, I found myself with hours to fill. My allotment and beekeeping kept me occupied, but also able to fully appreciate the unseen work bees do for us all. The natural activities of bees results in pollination of plants, so effective management of the bee population has a positive impact on flowers, vegetables and fruit. With some spare time, I was able to manage the bees more effectively and as result had better crops.
It has been said that without bees, life on earth would cease within 4 years due to a breakdown of the eco-system. I am passionate about bees because keeping them happens to be one of my hobbies, but they are under immense pressure due to the use of pesticides, weed killers and the advance of predators such as the Asian hornet, small hive beetle and varroa mite.
Compared to a human, a bee is quite small, but the combined benefits of a whole colony improves crops. Whilst I only grow produce for family & friends, multiply my experience to a global scale and the benefits are huge.
The pandemic provided me with time for thought and a stark realisation of how delicate life is. Combine that notion with the idea that life on earth is threatened by extinction of bees, it brings home the point that small things make a big difference, a series of small things make an even bigger difference and in fact the survival of the planet relies on all of us doing little things like looking after bees, buying honey which helps fund beekeeping, using less pesticides and so on.
I’m pleased to report that my bees kept me active and healthy (mentally and physically) during the lockdown, home grown organic veg helped the family finances and I know I was doing my little bit to save the planet. I secured another job and for reasons I’m sure you can appreciate, took a greater interest in ESG investments – there are many investment funds that consider Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) factors when deciding on the companies they invest in, they are not right for everyone, but could be a consideration as part of a balanced portfolio of investments.
Whilst I can wholeheartedly recommend keeping bees as a hobby, I would also suggest that you consider how a series of little changes can make a big difference, whether than is by directly protecting the environment and/ or considering the wider impacts of the investment decisions you make.
I would be delighted to discuss my beekeeping experiences, but if you would like to talk about investments that are designed to have a positive impact on the world (or any other aspect of your finances for that matter), as an Independent Financial Adviser, I can do that too.
Warwick Ivel – Financial Planner