Honey from the university forest

15 Dec 2022

For some time now, four bee colonies have been living in the LMU forest, cared for by the Landshut Beekeepers' Association. Forester Dimke and beekeeper Barthl Frey report on how coexistence with the new LMU members works.

Busy gatherers in the LMU forest.

"The bees' main swarming time is in May," says Barthl Frey, chairman of the Landshut Beekeepers' Association. The retiree himself maintains one of the beehives in Klosterholz near Landshut, which belongs to the LMU. What many don't know: The university owns a second forest area, namely the somewhat more rural Bocksberg ten kilometers from Landshut. The total area of the university forest is around 432 hectares, which is the size of 605 soccer fields.

"The university forest has ideal conditions for bee colonies. A beekeeper explicitly relocated his bees here because we use only biological means and practice sustainable forest management," says Christoph Dimke. His love of nature probably stems from his childhood, which he spent mostly in the Black Forest. "What it feels like to be in the forest is not something you can watch on YouTube. You have to feel it and perceive it. I like the buzzing of the bees, and I forget the time when I watch the bees on the skipping weed flying in and out," the forester says. He prunes trees manually and makes sure to leave as much of the so-called accompanying vegetation as possible. At the edge of the forest, he plants hedges and sows wildflowers that provide food for bees, birds and butterflies.

“Bees need to be taken care of all year round“

"Bees need a continuous flow of food. This is made more difficult by intensive agriculture: in many places there are monocultures that all bloom at the same time," explains experienced beekeeper Barthl Frey. He invests about 400 to 500 "bee hours" per year. His tasks include, for example, monitoring colony development and feeding his insects. "Bees need to be taken care of throughout the year. In part, it's also just a matter of looking to see if everything is in order. Animals like martens can break open a hive with their sharp claws and completely devastate it," Frey says.

He discovered his passion for beekeeping when he was eleven years old. "I've always enjoyed watching the bees at the flight hole and admiring how they fly out busily and with a sense of purpose. The scent that emanates from the hive, the so-called hive air, is an incomparable smell that is firmly anchored in my memory," the beekeeper enthuses. He doesn't remember how often he was stung, but "that's part of it and also depends on the type of bees you're looking after.

Bigger than you think: the apiary in the Uniwald.

“No two bee years are the same“

He is particularly fascinated by the highly complex structure of the bees' everyday life. "I realize again and again: we humans are little lights, especially when I look at the bees, this conglomerate of all living things in the hive. I never stop learning and am always surprised." Forester Dimke also emphasizes, "The university forest offers extensive research opportunities, for example on social, climate-related or technical issues. I would almost consider it a 'real laboratory'. LMU researchers, students and employees are always highly welcome."

In the Lower Bavarian region, beekeepers can harvest mainly blossom honey, for example from rapeseed or fruit trees, and forest honey. Each year, 20 to 30 kilograms of honey are collected in a beehive - even if Barthl Frey adds restrictively: "No bee year is like the other! There is no template for the correct handling of the bee colony. What you need is a certain amount of perseverance and attention to detail." Forester Dimke adds, "The important thing is to work with nature, not past it." Keeping the spider web intact.

For all those who are now wondering whether they can also try the "Uni-Honey": For a short time, you can buy the "Uni-Honey" from the LMU forest in the LMU store. Only while stocks last!

Bee mathematics

  • For one kilogram of honey, the bees have to collect about 3 kilograms of nectar. This requires about 100,000 trips and the bees must visit about 150,000,000 flowers.
  • The flight distance of the bees reaches for this six times around the earth. The flight speed of a bee is 6 to 8 meters per second.
  • The average daily distance flown by a bee can be estimated at about 85 kilometers.On average, a collecting trip lasts about 27 minutes. A bee makes about 13 trips per day during the swarming period.

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