Written by Alison
OxNatBees was represented at RSA:Motivate, a gathering of community, citizenship and environmental activists, on Saturday 10 June at the Oxford Town Hall.
Alison, Ann P and Paul set up the stall in the exuberantly baroque surroundings of the main hall, among some 30 other groups which were represented (details at http://rsaoxfordshire.org.uk ). Helle arrived and also helped out answering queries and explaining to enquirers the low-intervention methods of ‘natural’ beekeeping, while Robin, Sarah and Linda dropped in later to help out.
It turned out that our activities already fitted into the RSA’s key drivers of promoting responsible citizenship and community building; and, we were informed, also contribute to the UN’s Global Development Goals. That was quite affirming, as another name for the top bar hive being the ‘Kenyan log hive,’ it would seem to mesh with global activity. Specifically, we were told our group was supporting the following UN Sustainability goals simply by existing:
- #2 Zero Hunger (Resilient Agriculture / doubling food production)
- #15 Life on Land
There was a steady stream of visitors, attracted by the intriguing objects on the stall – every other stall depended on slick computer presentations and leaflets, whereas ours was piled with unusual objects people could pick up and examine. Examples and photographs of Warré, skep and top bar hives, a tree branch hive which had been donated and a honey-laden comb all piqued the interest of attendees.
We had a very intense conversation with a student of Engineering, who was struck by both the sophistication of apparently primitive hive types (tradeoffs between their insulation, ease of use, and the clever use of the properties of natural materials like woven straw and the reasons for choosing certain types of wood); and also by the comb made by bees – how they make it, how the cells are not all the same, their efficient use of minimal wax to give maximum strength and how bees’ comb has inspired architects and engineers.
The most common questions we had to answer were:
- What is a swarm?
- What is natural beekeeping? (Our answers stressed the importance of local bees, and the products of a Darwinian natural selection process of bees able to withstand varroa among other threats).
- Are bees in trouble?
- What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Paul mentioned: “I got into a couple of conversations about the medicinal virtues of propolis. A Brazilian told me it was in many medicines back home. I pointed out that as it is tree resins, its make-up is unlikely to be consistent, so I am very wary about using it medically – how do you know one batch will behave like the last one? For example I have talked with one lady whose throat was made worse by a propolis tincture advertised as soothing sore throats. Another person told me they had seen an article recently about using bees against cancer. Googling this, it seems to be using propolis. I’ve no doubt propolis is antiseptic and medically useful, but I caution extreme care in employing it because of possible allergic or other reactions due to inconsistency between batches.”
It was heartening to hear others refer to Bees for Development‘s work abroad, teaching beekeeping to generate income.
The bee stand was one of the most popular attractions and was a focus of comment in the BBC Oxford radio interview of the RSA organiser of the event.