‘Go to your fields and to your gardens, and you will discover that for the bee it is a pleasure to take nectar out of the flower. But it is also a pleasure for the flower to give nectar to the bees. For the bee, the flower is a fountain of life; for the flower, the bee is a messenger of love. And to both, flower and bee, giving and receiving is a need and an ecstasy.’
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Switzerland’s most common honeys
Honeys differ mainly by their origin (from flowers or honeydew), by their colour and taste. There are also differences due to the way bees are kept and how the honey is extracted.
Lighter honeys are generally mild in flavour, such as acacia honey, lime-flower and wildflower honey. Darker honeys are characterised by a pronounced, sometimes bitter, taste, such as pine forest honey, part of the honeydew honeys. Honeydew, a product secreted by certain plant-sucking insects, is the raw material of deciduous and coniferous forest honeys.
Varieties of Swiss honeys
• Alpine Rhododendron
• Mountain Flowers
• Fruit tree flowers
• Summer flowers
Bees and flowers
Why do so many people feel affected by the mortality of bees? Is it just because we have no more honey and our fruits and vegetables are not being pollinated? Not at all. Bees fill the landscape with diversity and life.
Pollination by insects is not only essential; for many crops it is indispensable. Yet if, by virtue of the principle of utility, we reduce the bee to a mere pollination machine, we come close to the idea of a possible replacement of the bee by other animals or even bee-robots.
Unconsciously perhaps, do we not feel that bees mean much more to agriculture and the landscape? What image do we have of a summer landscape without bees – for example, a mono-cultural cereal desert? Although it is filled with powerfully growing cereal, we can have a feeling of empty monotonous death. So what is missing? What qualities do bees bring to the landscape? What significance do they have for agriculture and landscape?
The work of bees in nature
On a green meadow in spring, I am picking dandelion flowers for biodynamic preparations. With the first rays of the sun, many bees fly zealously from one flower to the next, as if they would weave a large network of relationships between all the plants! Later in June, during a walk through the park, my attention is drawn to a large lime tree: it hums, sings and smells!
One day I climbed into the tree that was full of bees. I felt myself surrounded by a large, warm and fragrant being, as if the presence of bees gave the tree an additional vital dimension! This experience says more than the usual explanation: ‘Bees come looking for nectar and pollen, inadvertently pollinating the flowers as they go.’
The world of bees is the world of flowers. As the peak and culmination of their growth, the green plants blossom. The flower is an extremely subtle, differentiated and expressive organ. Often, its shape resembles that of an insect. Amazing! It is a world where, in an atmosphere of lightness, the prevailing elements are air, light and heat!
In addition, bees stimulate fruiting, the metamorphosis of vegetative growth from leaf and stem in a process that leads to fruit and seed. Out of the meeting between flower and insect, something absolutely new is born: fruit. The question is often asked: What consequences do the loss of pollinators have not only on the quantity but also on the quality of the formation of flowers and fruit?
The relationship between plant and animal
In his course for farmers, Rudolf Steiner drew attention to a principle of nature – the close links between plant and animal: ‘The plant gives and the animal takes.’ It is easy to find this type of exchange in nature. When, for example, a large number of flowers bear nectar, but no insect visits them, this exchange cannot take place and the plants vegetate. This is the exact opposite of what is commonly believed. Studies have shown that pollination by bees is not only an influence on the amount of fruit, but also on its quality. A comparison between apple trees frequently visited by bees and those seldom visited, showed that the fruit of the first trees were generally larger and sweeter. It was also observed that lavender plants fertilized by bees had up to 20 % more essential oil. We can understand this relationship by observing how, at the human level, if one wants to give a gift to someone, but that person does not show up, then one is disappointed and sad, and withdraws into oneself.
Bees have a balancing function
The bee belongs to those creatures that create balance: They regulate the purely vegetative growth in nature. To do this, they pollinate the flowers, so that fruit grows for the earth and for human beings, fruit grow. At the same time, they collect and prepare large quantities of nectar and pollen. That may be why we have long revered the bee as a goddess.
Jean-Michel Florin, Ecologist