FondsGoetheanum: Bees

Bee-meadows strengthen bees

A research project of the College of Agricultural Sciences, Forest and Food (HAFL) in Switzerland showed that bee-meadows provide honey bees with vital forces.
Bees are in trouble. The UNEP report outlined the main causes of this phenomenon. Current research is focused on a direct fight against Varroa.


The flowery bee-meadow is more than just a feast for the eyes. It provides uninterrupted nourishment for bee colonies, ensuring that from late May to October pollen and nectar are permanently available.

Bee-meadows fill the gaps

Another objective concerns the so-called bee-meadows. After the spring flowering of rapeseed and fruit trees, there occurs a ‘food trough’ or ‘honey hole’ that lasts until the forest starts to ‘honey up’. It generally runs from mid-May to late July. During this period, the bees find too little pollen and nectar, which causes food stress and weakens the colony – a general weakening that in turn makes the bees more vulnerable to diseases and Varroa. This is where the bee-meadow comes in. With its mixture of plants that offer a lot of pollen and/or nectar, the aim is to fill the gap made by the ‘honey hole’.

Assured food supply

The mixture is sown between late April and early May and begins to bloom in late May. First come the buckwheat flowers, followed by phacelia, cornflowers and poppies, and then five leguminous species. This gives a continuous supply of pollen and nectar approximately until the end of August. In the autumn the withered plants are buried in the soil and over-sown with the next crop (e.g. cereals). The goal for the future is to have many small bee-friendly plantings throughout agricultural areas, but also where possible in home gardens.

Fruitful sowings

The research, which lasted three years, showed that the mixture grows well and that the principle of the bloom relay works. Bees and other insects in search of nectar willingly visit bee-meadows. More honey bees were counted than in other ecosystems. The bee-meadow is also interesting for the non-specialised wild bees, as well as for insects useful to agriculture, such as syrphides.

Hans Ramseier, Professor of plant protection and ecological balance