Arboreal Apiculture - a Phase Shift
"The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained."
- David Bohm
Honeybees and trees have been intimate companions and lived together for millions of years. High above the ground, in the womb of a tree and the depth of ancient forests, she/he/they would thrive in small tree hollows and live in intimate coherence within a multi-species environment. This is where apian morphology and life gestures reflect her/his/their primordial ecological cradle of becoming. An ecological web and a multi-species community participate in the genesis of the nest cavity, consisting of woodpeckers, fungi and bacteria, insects, bats, and other four-legged mammals. One can only wonder how trees contribute to this larger process by following their own visions in growing apian-arboreal, womb-like organs.
This apian-arboreal nexus is located in the height of the trees, and we find it often 18 to 50 feet above ground level. There is a natural apian affinity with the ambient biome of the ecosystems of arboreal canopies that has nourishing and synergetic qualities. The womb-like nest is surrounded by well insulated, thick walls. The wooden fibers act as a repository for warmth and also support apian physiological processes by regulating apian-mammalian body temperature as well as water ecologies, therefore constituting an ideal environment for all homeodynamic parameters of the inner milieu (aka inner nest climate). When we examine the prevailing contemporary beekeeping paradigm in this context we will find a stark juxtaposition of apian wild nests and thin-walled human-made hives. The impact on water ecologies is exemplifying this: due to insufficient insulation values of thin-walled hives, the entire apian physiology is impacted and water dew points can be found inside the nest. This in turn leads to water vapor condensation on nest walls (cold corners) and comb, hence impacting apian health and well
being on multiple levels. One obvious area is that of the apian microbiome. The condensation issues induce a loss of natural nest parameters and lead to ramifications for the indigenous composition of the apian microbiome: delicate internal dynamics
are being affected, mold and other non-symbiotic microorganisms become prevalent and create dysfunction. Wild arboreal nests on the other hand provide the proper conditions for the physiological and emotional well being of the apian being, act as an extended phenotype, and mirror the ancient coherence of the apian-arboreal world. This also allows comb to function in a multiplicity of complex interchanges between innumerable agent forces. Comb is a fascination matrix and inner (meta-) organ of
the apian being. In the wild, comb grows in synchronicity with the unique shape of the nest cavity, the location of the entrance(s), apian respiratory patterns, and other complex morphogenetic influences.
Comb is pliable and stays within the patterns in which it originally emerged (it is never moved as in framed hives), and expresses itself in undulating, variable compositions. Shape and formation represent meaning, intention, and function. Conventional hive systems on the other hand do not grant this freedom of becoming. Contemporary entomological research and a diverse community of international apiculturists have documented the resilience and longevity of wild, unmanaged honeybees that shows their ability to live successfully in self-sustaining populations, surpassing all health
parameters of any human-managed apiary. Arboreal apiculture is not only supported by this pioneering research but is also inspired by ancestral, traditional practices. It mimics natural, indigenous environments and embraces completely the life forces and life gestures of honeybees. Arboreal apiculture grants the ancient birthright to live with dignity and in freedom as a sapient and sentient being. It opens the way into a holistic apian cosmology and re-homes ethics, natural life gestures, and apian-centric hive
Arboreal apiculture is a growing global movement that aligns with the bees way of life and wisdom. It is an innovative journey into the apian ecology of selves and allows us to observe and witness their life gestures outside of any artificial human-made hive system.
One could make the case and say that studying honeybees in conventional hive systems is equivalent to studying tigers in the zoo: not only will the artificial and unnatural environment distort the life gestures of the animal, but it also carries the danger of making an artificial environment into a foundational reference frame for
stewardship and research.
Arboreal apiculture is an inspiration for pioneering new ways in a time of crisis, and at the same time, it is also challenging our assumptions and beliefs about who honeybees are and what they need. How can this fundamental shift in apiculture be a nurturing
impulse for the biodynamic apicultural community, as it challenges some of the essential elements of the Demeter Standard (for beekeeping) and core principles and practices of biodynamic apiculture? And how can we engage in a dialogue with this newly emerging apian cosmology that is so radically outside the default? Rudolf Steiner was cautious in his descriptions of honeybees. He called them a world-enigma and said: "We can learn so much from honeybees because they completely contradict the thoughts we
form about them".
Our curiosity then maybe a good resource for exploring new vantages of the apian phenomenon in all her/his/their variations. In the 2019/20 bee season about 44% of 2,800,000 hives died in the US. Honeybees in the wild, on the other hand, have very high
survival rates in the US and live in conditions that promote self-sustaining populations. Wild country seems to hold a wisdom that leads the way towards the survival of honeybees. To follow this wisdom equals a phase shift in apiculture, one that comes with a tremendous opportunity to re-conceptualize, rethink and deconstruct our defaults for the benefit of our own wellbeing and that of the world. “In this time of accelerating global extinction we are being asked, again and again, to stand up for life” (Deborah Bird Rose) - and to wake up to new identities, biotic and spiritual complexities, and entanglements. We are being asked, again and again, to live with an open heart and open mind, a beginner's mind, when walking into the mystery of unbeknown territories of the
Michael J. Thiele