Mellifera e. V .: Settling of bees in living trees

Worldwide, honeybees are in an alarming state: Bees are dying on a global scale. They are only surviving by way of regular drug use and by being fed with sugar – in many places they would otherwise face starvation. Apart from global spread of bee diseases, the threat of starvation and nutritional imbalance due to the decline of habitats for flowering plants, intensive beekeeping practices also contribute to the problem. At the “Fischermühle Apiary” we have developed ecological alternatives, which take the natural needs and instincts of the bee colony into account and seek to avoid intensive interventions into the colony.

The apiary holds a „demeter“ certificate for ecological beekeeping and serves educational and scientific causes: The main focus of the apiary is to train beekeepers and to organize events, which allow a wide public to immerse into the world of honeybees. At the same time, research studies and broad-range field experiements help to constitute a beekeeping practice that serves the core aim of sustaining the longterm health of the colony. In the light of these objectives, the production of honey is only a secondary purpose of the apiary.

The Fischermühle apiary is being run by Mellifera e. V., a charitable organization recognized far beyond the borders of Germany as a pioneering association for organic and species-appropriate beekeeping. Mellifera has been involved in promoting organic beekeeping practices, research and education for over 30 years. The association’s successful work includes various thriving nationwide networks such as „Blühende Landschaft“ (a network of over 40 regional initiatives, environmental organizations, cities and businesses in Germany aimed at maintaining and expanding insect-friedly flower pastures), the „Alliance for the Protection of the Bees“ (a network of apriarist, environmental and organic farming associations aimed at enforcing the protection of the bees through judicial decisions at courts in Germany and at the EU-level), as well as „Bienen machen Schule“ (a network of beekeepers and teachers aimed at sparking knowledge and enthusiasm about the bees among young people).

Thanks to the support of the Tierschutz-Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche we were able to initiate a project to revive the traditional practice of tree hive beekeeping, which is considered the most beefriendly and species-appropriate way of keeping bees known to date. Traditional forest beekeeping has been the main method of beekeeping in the medieval times. When modern beekeeping was introduced in the 19th century, this tradition disappeared from most European countries. Fortunately, traditional beekeeping survived in some parts of Russia and was recently re-introduced to Poland. We are fascinated by forest beekeeping as it combines the protection of biodiversity, sustainable forest management and extensive beekeeping.

In April 2016, five massive living trees were carved and populated with bee colonies during an intensive and vibrant 4-day workshop at our Fischermühle apiary that took place under the leadership of tree hive beekeepers from Poland. Even the SouthWest TV station took interest in our workshop.

During the next years we will be closely monitoring how the bee colonies will be adapting to their new habitat. We assume that we will gain new insights into the natural instincts of the bees through this project. Our longterm aim is to strengthen the resilience and vitality of the bees and increase their adaptability to the local environment.

We are deeply grateful to the Tierschutz-Stiftung Wolfgang Bösche for its generous support! More information about Mellifera association and the Fischermühle apiary can be found at

(photos: Mellifera e. V. und Dorothea Scheidl-Nennemann)

KODAK Digital Still Camera