Beekeeping, our eco-system and rhythm of creation

iStock_000016939291Medium1The inexorable rhythm of the seasons continues apace and at this stage in the year beekeepers are already preparing the ground for next year’s colonies.

Like gardeners and farmers, we look to the future as we nurture our charges. A critical mass of healthy bees now, despite the prospect of our taking away much of their lovely honey, should ensure that they survive the Winter.

Last Autumn I had two big colonies,: with the advantageous weather of early Spring these flourished and showed no signs of swarming, which is always a relief. A third colony, the result of a late swarm that actually flew into an empty hive, sadly died out in March.

Frustrated in my search for the Queen in one of my hives in May, I was alarmed to discover an unusually large pile of dead bees. At a time when about 2000 bees were emerging daily, this was a sustainable attrition, but an unwelcome one nonetheless: I suspected poisoning from agricultural activities nearby. I posted a sample of dead bees to the laboratory and, at the time of writing this blog, am still waiting for the result. Strangely, this manifested itself on the one hive only, so the cause may prove to have been robbing, (an attempt to steal their honey by a foreign set of bees): a diagnosis supported by our local bee inspector.

Tractor-spraying-pesticide-128KbThere has been much reported in the press about the effects of gardening and agricultural chemicals, noenicitinoids in particular, and their pernicious effect on wildlife. We are aware of the importance of insects, and bees in particular and our survival as humans is conditional on their survival. I do believe that these pesticides, in killing off insects, have a knock-on effect on the whole food chain and reduce the biodiversity that reflects God’s creation. In Sussex we are blessed by the presence of plenty of birds, but this year I have never heard the Cuckoo that lived in the fields opposite our house last year and those murmurations of Starlings that fill one with wonder have all but disappeared. There is evidence that the reduction in the insect population has a measurable effect on the number of birds.

I kept bees for many years in my London allotment before Ginny and I came down to Lewes 18 months ago. The bees took a bit of time to settle down. Strangely, London bees are known to produce larger quantities of honey than their country cousins. I suspect that the bio-diversity of the city with its thousands of back gardens and its parks awash with lime trees that produce a particularly flavoursome honey is at variance with much of the country where mono-culture and herbicides prevail and cause our bees to forage over a considerably larger area. Still, give me Sussex over London any day!

swarmMany idiomatic phrases stem from the Bible and from Shakespeare. Sailing but of my other passions, has produced plenty too, and from beekeeping we have expressions such as bee-line (actually the direct line of flight into the hive), swarm and hive-off(the fascinating process of getting a swarm into one of your hives). Plenty of old-wives’ tales and suspicions surround the art of beekeeping and, as we were about to attend my son’s wedding in North Yorkshire earlier this year, a swarm actually flew overhead. This is a classically lucky omen and much to Ginny’s relief, I was unable to pursue this particular swarm!

The riddle posed by Samson “Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.” But they could not tell the riddle in three days.

Because they hadn’t read Judges 14!


Henry Foster
Creation Care Team

A Strong Man’s House

No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man

Christ DiedBy 6 pm on the first Good Friday something had changed, in fact the world had changed. Jesus’s death on the cross had caused the defeat of the Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ had begun (from NT Wright’s book, “The day the revolution began”).  This powerful and self-giving event is the powerhouse from which we can work out our mission to “see lives transformed by the love of Christ”, first in ourselves, then in our Church community, then outwards into our neighbours in Lewes and on into the wider world.

On the cross, Jesus’s blood was poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins; it was the place where the power of all the evil forces in the world were destroyed, and it was the place where heaven and earth were reunited and the rule of the Kingdom of God came with power. He took on Himself all the power that death could throw at Him: humiliation, rejection, scorn, pain and the deepest sorrow. Having all this laid upon Him, he demonstrated His victory as the love and dynamic power of the Father raised Him to new life, showing that the final enemy, death, had been decisively defeated.

Rev12It was the place where the self-giving love of the Triune God was powerfully demonstrated by the suffering servant who poured out His blood to purify us from our sins, re-creating us as His witnesses on earth to proclaim that love, as we allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in our lives, to remake us in His divine self-sacrificing image.

The cross is the place where we can come on our knees in worship and adoration, wondering at the love and power of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. As we believe and trust in what Jesus has done for us, we find that our world has changed. We discover that “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”. Whenever we deviate from His rule of love, we can return in repentance to Jesus who is able to apply anew his redeeming blood on our lives, to purify us and renew us yet again in His image.

At the crossWe have been transferred from the imprisonment of the kingdom of this world, ruled by the power of our own desires, and controlled by all the power structures which want to conform us to their own ends, turning us into consumers and users. We have been lifted into the freedom of the kingdom of Christ where we are being slowly transformed into the person Jesus created us to be, making us useful to Him, as we join with the rest of His redeemed people in His church, to bring the Kingdom of heaven into our lives and neighbourhoods, and hastening the day when Jesus will come to bring the transformed heavens and earth into a living perfect unity, fully conformed to His rule of love.



Ian Hempshall