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Beekeeper Eddie: ‘We can learn a lot from bees’

That one was located a little further up, on the corner of Betuwestraat and Veluwestraat. ‘Unfortunately, not everyone liked the bees living so close to their homes, so we had to look for a new location’, says Heijblom. Thanks to some supportive residents, Heijblom was allowed to make a new home for the bees in the wooded area on the edge of Zorgvlied. But last winter proved too wet for that colony, and Heijblom had to look for some new bees. ‘It was quite sad, yes’, he says. ‘As a beekeeper, there are a few things you can do to help, but mainly the bees just have to make it through the winter on their own. Fortunately, I was able to get a new queen and workers through a beekeeper friend of mine. Now they’re happily living inside this brand-new hive.’

The smoke calms the bees
Marcel Steinbach

Community spirit

Heijblom first became interested in bees a few years ago, when he was visiting a biologist friend who kept bees in his backyard. ‘Bees are such unique creatures: it’s unbelievable what they manage to achieve with a brain the size of a pinhead. They even have their own language, did you know that? They perform special dances to tell each other about particular flowers that are in bloom, and how to find them. Just like we tell each other which stall at the market we can buy the tastiest fruit from, they tell each other where to get the best nectar and the best pollen. And another thing that I love about bees is how the collective welfare of the colony takes precedence over the individual. We humans could learn a thing or two from the bees’ community spirit.’

The hive is kept behind a high fence
Marcel Steinbach

Honey in the freezer

When Heijblom moved to Montferlandstraat in Amsterdam eighteen months ago for romantic reasons, he was pleased to find out that a beehive was needed in his new neighbourhood, Kop Zuidas. As an amateur beekeeper, Heijblom visits the bees about once a fortnight. ‘I remove any excess honey, or add honey if necessary. I always keep a comb of honey in my freezer just in case.’ Fortunately, the weather is warming up now and Heijblom thinks this new colony is going to do well. ‘And if it looks like the colony is going to expand, I’ll make sure that the bees don’t swarm and that all the new colonies find a good home in Zuidas. So I’m going to keep an eye on whether they’re already practising on a new nest for the new queen. When that happens, I’ll know it’s time to move the old queen and some of her workers to a new hive in a controlled way. If I don’t do that, the old queen and her worker bees will leave of their own accord, and try to find a suitable place to live nearby.’

A green oasis in the city
Marcel Steinbach

Fascination

All the while, passers-by stop to see what Heijblom is doing. Although the hive is hidden behind a high fence (Heijblom explains: ‘that means that when the bees leave the hive, they don’t fly straight out into somebody’s hair as they walk along the footpath’), people spot Heijblom’s beekeeper suit and they’re often curious to know what is going on. ‘Most people are really interested and want to know more. I also give regular presentations for people who live nearby. They find it very interesting to learn about the bees. But this is also my peaceful place, when I’m standing here with the bees. Here, in the middle of all this greenery, you can almost forget that you’re in Amsterdam.’ In the future, though, this part of the city will not be as green as it is now. The construction of The Newton residential complex will start in 2022, for example. ‘But fortunately, they’re going to incorporate plenty of green space, with trees and plants on Terrace Tower, so there’ll still be plenty of food for the bees. And the municipality is also doing its bit by creating bee-friendly green strips, such as along Rooseveltlaan.’

Give your opinion

RH

Nice initiative to nurture bees in a city environment.