I had my first my experience with honey bee colonies in the forests of Portugal as a 6-year-old. Hundreds of ‘cortiço’ (cork) bee hives spread out through the pine and eucalyptus forests in Paião, a small village in Portugal.
Beekeeping was the responsibility of the older generation and I was fascinated by the simple methods of handling the bees, gentle smoke, the waft of pine smoke, talking to the bees, careful movements, bare hands and often no veils once the temperament of the bees had been assessed.
My grandfather was one of the first in the region to move to Langstroth hives and I would watch in awe as the cork hives would be gently held between a person’s legs, tapped and rasped until the whole colony would leave the top of the cork hive (abandoning brood) and enter the entrance of the Langstroth hives.
These early adventures helped me manage African bees (Apis mellifera scutellata and adansonii) from the age of eight and for the next 40 years. This has expanded my knowledge of not only traditional bees but various species, non as fascinating as Apis mellifera capensis where the workers can produce a queen from unfertilised eggs.
I have worked with honey bees in Africa, Europe, North America and now the UK. Observation has been enhanced by reading and the assimilation of science as I have had to adapt to the changing environments and species of bee as well as the limitations of equipment in many of the poorer regions of Africa.
This lifelong experience has allowed me to be able to notice changes in bee temperament, development, and the problems associated with unrestricted movement of species around different regions.