I know that beekeepers and domesticated honeybees are often thought to be going against ecological norm by introducing thousands of extra mouths to cater for, artificially feeding them to promote productivity, introducing alien pests and unnatural genes with imported, inseminated queens, and generally encouraging a skewed balance of nature.
However, my apiary where the are bees managed in tune with how they would live in the wild is a safe haven for all sorts of creatures other than honeybees. I went out to see what I could find, other than honeybees, inhabiting the apiary before the season begins.
In providing flowering plants and water for the bees, and prohibiting the use of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides around the apiary, it does become an enclave of sorts. Empty hives make a safe overwintering home for numerous woodlice, earwigs and spiders as well as mice, and hibernating hymenopteran queens. Lizards tuck up in the space under the roof for protection – the zinc coating on top makes a warm basking spot for when the sun comes out. The sink full of grass which I keep topped up for use as a bee watering hole is visited by all and sundry – including the rabbits.
I love seeing what else uses the spaces I offer for the bees, as for me, beekeeping is a way of connecting with the environment and giving me an insight in to the way the apiary ecosystem operates. Segregation and overemphasis on a particular species is categorically not what I am about, and I believe that incorporating and encouraging as many players to the natural order is how we can encourage our bees to not only perform to their best, but enhance and support the pollinator environment rather than dominate it.