Alica & the Load 60
27.10.2022 | General
People all around the world are making our bikes an essential part of their life. In this series, we let them tell their story.
I’m Alica, I’m 27 years old and I live in Bensheim on the South Hessian Mountain Road in Germany. Back when I was still at university, I worked as a student trainee at Riese & Müller. One of my great passions – aside from cycling – is bees. I have been an amateur beekeeper for three years now.
I used to always think beekeeping was reserved solely for professionals. But now I know anyone can do it. So I contacted my local beekeepers’ association. If you are interested in beekeeping, I highly recommend you do this. You get a beekeeping mentor you can watch work for a whole year. I’m very grateful for this time.
Although you can purchase your own colony of bees, it’s much nicer if you source an offshoot from another beekeeper, as you will then know their temperament and origin. But I also had another stroke of luck: A swarm of bees just happened to settle in a bush in my neighbourhood. The neighbour was pleased that my beekeepers’ association was willing to take care of removing it. And since bees don’t wear collars, you’re allowed to keep the swarm you find. So I’d found my bees, or rather, they’d found me.
I set up my bee colony in a large, wild meadow near a garden centre. Between 10,000 and 35,000 bees live in the beehive, depending on the season. It can also be significantly more than this, depending on how big the colony is. I ride there once a week on my Cargo Bike to check they’re all OK.
I transport my equipment in a specialised box that fits snugly on my Load 60. And my smoker is always on hand. You fill it with the things you are going to burn, and the smoke causes the bees to leave you alone. I take small-animal hay and lavender, as that’s what works best on my bees. It is a misconception that the smoke calms or dazes the bees. In fact, it’s more of a signal that “there’s a fire – maybe we should flee” that prompts the bees to refuel on honey for their getaway. They are then busy with their honeycombs and no longer interested in me. I am cautious with using smoke, as every intrusion stresses the bees.
I have a veil and thick gloves to protect me from stings. I also use a bee brush and a hive tool to lift out the honeycombs. You see, bees glue everything together to ensure their home is properly sealed. In autumn, I also need formic acid to treat against varroa mites, the bees’ biggest enemy, and food for the winter. I use big buckets of sugar syrup, but there are other methods.
Beekeeping: better than meditation.
When I begin smoking in front of the entrance hole, I take a moment to monitor the bees’ flight. This reveals quite a lot about the condition of my bees. Are they lingering outside because it’s too hot for them in there? Are there lots of bees flying about – or none? Then I open the lid. Depending on the season, I check whether there is already honey there or how my bees are feeding, whether I can spot enough eggs or maybe even the queen bee. Then I close the beehive again.
I can also tell how the bees are doing by the buzzing sound they make. If it’s a relaxed hum, they’re doing well. If there’s a sudden, quick-tempered “zzzZ!” they are stressed, or I did something wrong – maybe I knocked against them somewhere. I was once stung really badly in this kind of situation: three guard bees that usually guard the entrance flew at me and stung me right in the face. Ever since then, I have been very diligent about wearing my veil. You should move very quietly and work calmly, but you do this automatically. You need to be 100% in the moment. It’s very grounding for me, better than meditation.
Beekeeping is a hobby for all the senses. Temperatures reach over 30 degrees in a bee colony. That moment when I open the beehive in the colder seasons and am greeted with the warm scent of honey and the crazy buzzing... It’s an unbeatable experience.
Which nectar makes the best honey is a matter of taste. Many people prefer light honey made from rapeseed. I personally think it lacks a depth of flavour. In my opinion, forest honey is absolutely delicious – the honey from my own bees, of course! It tastes very tangy, which is probably down to the wild flowers from the nearby fields and meadows.
Before I had my Load, I would drive to the bees in my car. This was annoying, as I always had to navigate rush-hour traffic in the evenings. I simply ride past all that on my Cargo Bike. I arrive feeling much more relaxed, and it’s quicker. I can also ride straight up to my colony on the Load.
Before I go, can I just say: starting beekeeping was one of the best decisions I could have made, even though I’m not a professional yet.