What I imagined in Sweden were Ikea-designed hives filled with winged mini-Vikings quaffing Absolut vodka. The reality, however, is much like beekeeping in the U.S…. plus styrofoam.
Last month, I lived in Gothenburg, Sweden where I encountered obscene amounts of daylight, smoked fish, and craggy green nature. Surprisingly, however, I saw very few honey bees. But that’s a different story.
Let me introduce you to the bees I was lucky enough to meet in Sweden and one special hive we took a peek inside.
Bronze Age Carvings & Bees
All watery green and granite, the Bohuslän coast north of Gothenburg is home to a series of Bronze Age rock carvings. It’s all part of a UNESCO world heritage site replete with hunting scenes and phallic might. On the road in between one ancient carving spot and another, we encountered this bright little apiary owned by the Johansson family.
A Public Education Hive
At the well-maintained and centrally-located gardens of the Gothenburg Garden Society (that’s Trädgårdsföreningen, if you’re a Swede), I spied some kind of vertical public demonstration hive, complete with cartoon instructions about the honeybee lifecycle sponsored by the Gothenburg Beekeeping Association.
A Backyard Bee “Society”
One afternoon, we visited the backyard hives of Mikael Lagerman, a Gothenburg beekeeper whom I contacted blindly through the Swedish Beekeeping Association. With typical western Swedish hospitality, Mikael invited us over and spent several hours talking bees.
And I’m dying to tell you… his Langstroth-style hives were made of styrofoam… yes STYROFOAM! Lightweight and perfectly crafted with Swedish attention to detail, the hive bodies were entirely comprised of insulative styrofoam making ventilation-obsessed beeks like myself downright itchy. Literally, I could feel the fungus growing. But Mikael assured me that his colonies (actually the Swedish word translates to “societies” which seems more fitting, doesn’t it?) survive the Swedish winter better with styrofoam. And indeed, his societies were thriving.
[If you’re curious about the styrofoam “Nacka” hive, translate this post or contact this supplier. In the U.S., you can buy Polystyrene hives at BeeVilla or BetterBee. Read a review of the BeeMax hive.]
Though honey bees out in the wild were somewhat rare, city beekeeping seems alive and well in Sweden. And if projects like Urban Bee are any indication, it’s about to get even sweeter.