Achna bee park might finally drum home why we need the world’s pollinators
By Annette Chrysostomou
My first impression as I arrived from busy Nicosia to what will soon be the Achna bee park was the lack of noise. Then I listened again and heard the faint humming of bees.
Looking around, I saw hundreds of trees and the Achna reservoir just a few metres away.
All of which is what Antonis Ilia loves, and what made him decide to use the land belonging to his family, part of the protected Natura 2000 area, as a bee park.
We should no longer need to be told how crucial bees are to our survival and well-being because they pollinate most fruits, vegetables and crops. So I was intrigued when a new project to open a bee park in Achna, Famagusta was announced by the Larnaca and Famagusta development agency.
The new project is under the EU funding programme to develop local communities and local agriculture, but such programmes need the innovative skills of local people and the willingness to turn an idea into something feasible.
Illia is determined to do just that, though it has been a gradual development.
“I worked in banking,” he said. “Seeing a lot of people, and a lot of paperwork. I decided to do something totally different, and now I work 15 hours a day on the land.”
The particular spot next to the reservoir was a decisive factor as he saw that families already make frequent trips to the area close to Dhekelia, because they like to be next to water.
Ilia is determined to give visitors, local and international alike, something else to see besides the reservoir.
The park will have a museum, a cafeteria, a space for exhibitions, a playground, parking, fruit trees and a greenhouse.
Everything will centre on the bees, starting with the hexagonal shape of the buildings. The hexagonal is the strongest, least wasteful shape in nature, and one which honey bees use to build their hives. The six sided-shaped spaces fit together perfectly in the hive, while using circles would mean gaps in the structure.
Ilia sees the park as a long-term project. Though he plans to open at the beginning of April next year, some parts, such as the greenhouse, will be added later on.
He has got plenty of ideas about what to show the visitors, all of which he has thought of himself over time.
The exhibition, which may include showing video clips, photos and reading material, is about different aspects of the bees’ lives, such as the six things they produce. Some of these are obvious like honey, venom and wax. Others may be less so: royal jelly, pollen and last but not least propolis, a resinous mixture honey bees produced by mixing saliva and beeswax with the sap of trees, which helps to heal wounds and fight bacteria.
“Bees have no immune system to speak of,” Ilia explained. “So they are protected by the products they are making.”
Then there are questions to which we may not all have a comprehensive answer, but probably will after a future visit of the park. What is honey? What is pollen? What is beeswax? How are they produced?
Will there be bees? Of course, Ilia says, adding immediately that they can be dangerous when people come to close to their hives and they feel threatened. Which is why there will be one very large beehive only, behind glass, so visitors can see what the bees do.
The owner has it all planned. He will place microphones in the hive, and visitors will be able to hear the humming everywhere they go. There is a good reason for all the buzzing. The average honey bee beats its wings approximately 180 times every second, which causes audible vibrations in the air.
The bees need food of course, and will be healthier, more productive and give better honey the more diverse their food is. Which is why Ilia has planted a variety of trees, which flower at different times of the year, so there is always some bee food available which is organic and not sprayed with pesticides.
Traditional food for the guests will also be cooked on the premises, and in the future Ilia may dabble with cosmetics to cater for those who favour bee products instead of chemicals.
The natural environment is considered at every step, which is something the Natura 2000 specifications require, but is also the owner’s vision. The parking for 50 cars and five buses will not be covered by asphalt, but by gravel, roofs will be made of wood, and buildings are going to be clad with traditional stones.
He pointed to a big pile of stones next to the existing house. “I have collected 40 carloads of rocks from fields in the area early in the mornings, between 4.30am and 7am,” he said. “These will be used for the buildings.”
To listen to Ilia is to catch his enthusiasm.
“They are fascinating, they feel every vibration, they smell everything,” he said, full of admiration for the species which pollinates 70 per cent of the around 100 crop species that feed 90 per cent of the world’s population.
Bee and honey facts
Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.
The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
The bee’s brain is about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has a remarkable capacity to learn and remember things. For example, it is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.
Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing.
A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honey bees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about six weeks and do all the work.
Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.
The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
Honey lasts an incredibly long time. An explorer who found a 2000-year-old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!
From: Sustainable resource website Golden Green http://www.golden-green.ca
From: Renewable resources website Matter of Trust https://matteroftrust.org