Rosie has kept bees since 1996, developing a deeper understanding over time and along with acquisition of other skills such as meditation and healing arts.

She is a natural-style beekeeper, minimising invasive hive opening, avoiding use of smoke to manipulate bees and preferring natural medicines and feed.

The advent of the Varroa mite in the local honeybee population has meant big changes for beekeepers. Bees became immune suppressed. Crop spraying with harsh chemicals and weather changes compounded the problem to create Colony Collapse Disorder. After losing her own bees she went through a sad bee-less spring in 2010, with no workers to greet her on sunny spring days, no pollinators for the early soft fruit. The apple crop was set by wild mason bees (Rosie has encouraged a large colony of these solitary bees to settle in her house-roof) and wasps and bumblebees pollinated red-currants yet the garden seemed quiet and empty. A surge of sniffing scout bees investigating the old hives and equipment made her heart leap so she set up bait hives in various stances in garage and garden to welcome any bees who wished to move in.

On a sunny early July day, a swarm of black bees hived themselves in the garden. They have been with Rosie since. She rarely takes honey from them, instead valuing their work as pollinators, companions and teachers. They live just a few feet from her study so she can watch and hear their progress throughout the year. Having the bees so close means considering their welfare in other ways and brought her to the use of natural wood stains, lacquers and paint for outbuildings.

She is often asked if being a natural bee-lady means she doesn’t use protective clothing. The answer is: if the bees are flying, and she is opening a hive for any reason, she wears full kit because she reacts badly to stings. Humans are prone to clumsiness, at least compared to honeybees, so best avoid taking chances. They are great communicators and she knows when they want help in the hive. She only works with them when they wish and they are calm. She is rarely stung now, unlike when she was a novice. Its all about the listening.

links: natural beekeepers in Scotland Facebook page