By Sonya at Permaculture Pathways
We're keen to introduce bee hives into our permaculture system here on our 2.25 acres. Bees bring with them some unique services - namely pollination of food crops. I was speaking to a local organic grower and he noticed an increase in yield after introducing hives into his farm.

Bees - and I mean the European Honey Bee varieties - also offer high value products, not just in trade ($) value, but also in food and health value. Honey is well known for its medicinal qualities so having our own honey on hand will be a great boost for our farm. Eating local in season honey also helps people suffering from pollen allergies.

But, like any new component of a permaculture system, we need to understand how they will fit in, what they need from us and our garden (inputs) and what they will produce (outputs for maximum yield).

Permaculture teaches us to take the time to think about what we are doing and how we can make it work best in the system - to its highest value and service.

And like any livestock, bees need care and we need to take responsibility for their well-being and health. So we need to make sure we have everything set up for them, plus some basic knowledge of how to care for them all organised before they arrive.

But it's not easy to learn about bee keeping. Luckily I know someone who has nine productive hives and who sells beautiful honey. I contacted him and asked if he'd run a workshop on bee keeping if I could get the participants for him and he said yes.

"He" happens to be Max Lindegger, a very well-known and well-respected permaculture pioneer. Max organised a great day of bee keeping and I'm surprised just how much knowledge he managed to share. I feel much more confident about how to get started, how to prepare for the bees and how to care for them when they are here.

When we look at introducing bees into our food systems through permaculture eyes, we consider a lot of principles for sustainability. Some include; a 'sector analysis', 'relative location' and 'zones'.

Sector analysis: Usually done for a whole property, a sector analysis can also be applied to each individual component of the system. Sector analysis considers all the 'wild energies' that will affect you - wind, sun, water, bushfire, flood etc. You work on mitigating negative effects and enhancing positive effects. So bees need easterly morning sun, protection from strong winds, and protection from flooding.

You also need to consider what you put them on - by that I mean are you putting them in an area that needs regular mowing? Bees don't like people walking in front of their hives, so mowing grass in front of hives can be tricky - how will you do it? Continue...

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