By Lisi Niesner
An unsettling night followed this story. It felt as if something was scuttling on my skin. It was a tickling feeling which made me scratch and I saw bugs bustling around in my mind’s eye. In the morning I could not remember exactly what I had dreamed, but the one thing I knew, all night long I had heard the buzz in my head.
I got plenty of mosquito bites, a bee sting, and on top of that several times I encountered stinging nettles and thistles while shooting Vienna’s city beekeepers. The Austrian organization Stadtimker, retains wild bees and honey bees in the city area of Vienna. Everybody who has a little garden or a roof-top can join and make room available for one or more bee hives. The beekeepers build up the hives and fully care for them generally once a week.
The hives are placed on prominent buildings in the city center: On the roof of the Austrian chancellery, the State Opera or the Burgtheater, just to mention a few of the most important. The organic honey and even cosmetic products can be purchased in some cooperative shops in Vienna.
I joined beekeeper Felix Munk while he cared for the honey bee hives on top of the chancellery, in the gardens of Belvedere palace, and next to the oil port. He supplied food and water, changed honeycomb and checked the development of the bee colony as well as the weather resistance level of the hives.
I love assignments where I can wear the work clothes of my subjects. In this case I put on a long-sleeve white protective vest with a netting hat to keep the bees off my face. Felix told me just one simple instruction: Do not wave your hands when a bee appears. I believe everybody is well aware of this advice, but apparently not everyone sticks to the rule. I can definitely say there is no reason to freak out. Lots of bees buzzed around my head or sat down on my bare hands. I even reached into a little box full of bustling bees and not one responded to this intrusion at all.