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Dance Of The Bees

“Two of the most fascinating phenomena among bees are their way of communication and their devotion to their community,” says Kurt Kriegl. 

The beekeeper and his wife Roswitha follow their passion – apiculture – in the Olympiaregion Seefeld with all their heart. Kurt Kriegl is also the brain and driving force behind the Bee Hotel project and the “Path of the Bee”, an educational trail on the importance of bees for healthy and long-living eco systems. In our interview, he tells us what we can learn from bees.

More and more people are interested in healthy eating, and therefore also in keeping our environment - nature - clean and intact. Bees are vital to the functioning of complex eco systems. What is important in beekeeping?

First of all we need to understand the vital interactions between bees, nature, flowers and plants. As a beekeeper you also develop a certain sensitivity for what bees need and for how you can support them in staying healthy and resistant against increasing outside influences. An attentive apiarist can outbalance certain developments early on.

Sensitivity seems to be a big issue here. What else can we learn from bees?

Bees are very social creatures: Every single one is there for the others. It’s all about the community, and any bee is willing to sacrifice its life if needed in the defence of the hive. Also, considering their short lifespan, bees achieve a lot in very little time.

Can we apply these findings to human communities as well?

I think so. It is a question of our own priorities: If we want to help others, it is not so much about how we benefit from something as individuals, but about how we can give to others, to the community. Being part of such a prospering community is regarded as rewarding enough.

The Olympiaregion Seefeld with its amazing biodiversity seems to be the perfect place for your mission.

Yes, we are very fortunate to still have so many wild plants and herbs on our meadows. In spring you can see wonderful crocus, and then there are herbs like thistle, stinging nettle and comfrey.
From a bee’s point of view, this is paradise. Overbred decorative plants are of no use for bees at all, they have no nutritional value for them. To bees, they are like dead flowers.

Do you love the outdoors in general?

Absolutely. When business gets slower in the beehive towards the end of summer, I like to go hiking. Summers are rather short for bees. They finish collecting pollen already in July.

They seem to depend on sunshine a lot.

Yes, it plays an essential role in their way of communicating. When the bees are out looking for food, they remember locations based on the position of the sun in relation to their beehive. Back home, they communicate this information to their fellow bees by dancing. The others, again, remember this information and even consider the sun’s changed position if they don’t fly out immediately. Bees also remember topographic information easily and always find the shortest way from A to B. Scientists have been trying to decipher this phenomenon for years. Many pesticides, however, are a danger to the bees because they interfere with their sense of orientation.

As a beekeeper, is summer your favourite season?

Yes, I do have a little penchant for summer, simply because the diversity of flowers is so much more visible at this time of year. But every season is just wonderful here in Seefeld.

What can we see on the “Path of the Bee”, and how to locals and visitors respond to it?

Here in Seefeld we make a big effort to keep our eco system in balance, and this is our contribution: We provide information on bees and the vital role they play in nature and agriculture.
We have a lot of visitors and hikers coming by. Many of them call us if they feel like we have to check on one of the hives or if something is crooked somewhere.

So the project also fosters a sense of community among humans?

Yes, you could absolutely say that.

Text: Sandra Pfeifer
Photos: David Payr // friendship.is

Aug. 19, 2016

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