At the Lush Summit, 2018, we caught up with Eusebio De Carvalho: a Brazilian beekeeper who works with the Barro Vermelho Quilombola cooperative. This group supplies a central cooperative, Casa Apis, with Fair Trade, organic honey. Since 2005, Casa Apis has been establishing environmental sustainability as a priority in everything they do. The beekeepers in all of their partner cooperatives are taught to understand that social development is more consistent and impactful when associated with maintaining the environment. In 2017, Lush began to us Casa Apis’ and Eusebio’s honey in their products, for the superior quality their area’s organic land can produce.
Eusebio’s career wasn’t always in sustainable beekeeping; he once made a living from doing quite the opposite...
What inspired you to begin beekeeping?
Being a beekeeper brings me great satisfaction. Besides improving my financial situation I get a huge sense of joy in looking after the environment. Beekeeping has completely changed my way of life. I used to clear land for agriculture - I used to destroy it. Now, I do the opposite! I no longer kill trees, but plant them back because I understand that without them we cannot breathe. To me, being a beekeeper means to care for a world beyond yourself; it’s to expand our knowledge and to seek new ways to improve all of our lives on this planet.
What is the most challenging thing about the job that you do?
The most challenging thing we face today, in our northeastern region, is the lack of rain. It’s a huge challenge. We lose swarms this way. Sometimes beekeepers give up and move to other areas, where they don’t have the support they really need to succeed.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to begin keeping bees?
Before getting into beekeeping I would advise you to look for strong support in a structured organisation. Bees can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. It’s a wonderful activity, but the first steps are to build knowledge and to look for support so that you can begin this journey with both feet on the ground.
What other ways can we care for bees, if we can't maintain a hive at home?
If you can’t keep your own hive, but you want to care for bees I’d encourage you not to use any toxic materials. The use of toxic material can affect many plants that the bees use for food. We hear of of big farmers that end up killing bees because they use toxic material. My advice to those is to be conscious, stop damaging behaviours and to recover areas that have been deforested or cleared, so that we can help nature and bees to thrive. If they don’t get what they need from their food, healthily, then they cannot create healthy honey - it’s a simple concept. In cities, I would advise people to get in touch with experienced beekeepers when they see swarms in the city. Be careful with your waste; avoid creating and throwing away toxic waste that could affect the bees.
Can you describe the process involved in keeping bees?
You need to spend a lot of time observing their movements. It involves a lot of study and care. A key element of keeping bees is providing them with clean, fresh water (especially when temperatures get very high). Your swarm needs close examination to ensure that they are healthy, and not being attacked or contaminated. They need to be placed in specific areas with ample shade. These are only a few of the things required to ensure that they are healthy. The key is to create a community of bee enthusiasts around you, to study, be curious and observant.
What do you love?
My first love is my mother, secondly my children and then my bees.
Every time I am close to the swarm, I revel in the sound they make. It’s like music. I love feeling them when they fly by me; they sometimes touch your face. It’s wonderfully gratifying, connecting with my bees.
What's your mantra?
When I get up I asked the Father to illuminate me, to bless my day, and to protect my family and community. I feel he has guided me throughout my life, and I hope He carries on doing that until I terminate my work in this planet.
Hungry for more information on beekeeping? A Lush Summit 2018 panel on bees and honey, with bee enthusiasts Josh Iveson and Ben Davis, is now available to watch on the Lush Player! They discuss everything from whether honey can be considered vegan, where Lush get their honey from and whether the company will ever stop using this powerful ingredient.