Ron Breland is an architect and a builder. His custom-built homes are an example of how green design can be functional, user-friendly, and fit for a queen—bee, that is.
The world's honeybees are dying. Pesticide spraying, loss of habitat, and, more recently, two species of mites have devastated the honeybee population. In 1996 Breland, a commercial photographer turned beekeeper and organic gardener, lost all of his bees. That set him to thinking—about sacred geometry, Brancusi's Endless Column, and how to build a better beehive. Constructed of untreated spruce, Breland's hives are five-sided, with matching conical roofs that closely approximate the kind of housing bees might naturally build for themselves.
Breland is convinced that the honeybee's demise began in 1857 with industrialization and the invention of the Langstroth hive, a boxy, flat-topped structure that became standard housing for honeybees around the globe: "It's like keeping bees in a file cabinet. We've enslaved a formerly sacred creature and chained it to a production system that's pure bottom-line driven."
Many ancient cultures considered bees messengers of the gods. The Greeks called them "birds of the Muses;" Egyptians believed they were the tears of the sun god, Ra; and according to the Prophet Mohammed, honey was "a remedy for every illness." But it was the desire to produce large quantities of honey for market consumption that changed our reverential relationship with bees.
According to Breland, the bees are still bringing us messages: "Bees are an umbrella species par excellence. They sensitize us to the landscape and ask us to be wakeful. Care for the bees, and other things will take care of themselves."
Learn more at Bumps & Co. nursery in West Nyack: (845) 353-0513.