At last week’s Bermondsey Street Festival, I was asked to describe my relationship with my bees. It’s a fair question.
Consider: we belong to different species, our lifespans are mis-matched and our unit sizes are dramatically divergent. The matter is complicated by the fact that I am one and they are many. The complexity intensifies further when you consider that each individual hive has its own quirks and character traits.
In summary, I”m entangled with hundreds of thousands of individual insects, segregated into independent colonies which perform as autonomous super-organisms – and all this at one location on a London rooftop and at another a hundred miles away in a rural Suffolk garden. Only a on-line dating agency running on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum afflicted by a serious malware dysfunction would try to fix up a relationship between those two parties.
Yet my answer to the relationship question is surprisingly simple: “The bees are my clients”.
I think of it in day-job terms. As a stockbroker, I provide advice and consultancy services to a diverse list of professional asset-gatherers (what could better resemble a “professional asset-gatherer” in nature than a honeybee?). Our interests are aligned: if my clientele prospers from my inputs, their assets under management will grow and my reward will increase proportionately. It is an outcomes-based exchange. So if my interventions allow the bees to thrive and be productive, they will reward me with
For example, I have made two major local planting initiatives: the installation of pollinator-friendly flowerbeds in St Mary Magdalen Churchyard in 2012 and the planting of a fruiting wildlife corner of Leathermarket Gardens in 2014. If I put forage in the ground for the bees, they will have abundant natural food – and increase their chances of good health and high honey yields, to our mutual benefit.
In 3 decades working in the City, client relationships have been the key to my career. In a knowledge-based business, tasked with creating long-term value, I have a duty of care. Allied to that ethic, the practical reality is that a high knowledge base means a low frequency of interventions – another notable correlation with beekeeping.
As they say, fair exchange is no robbery.