You can learn a lot from bees

The bees on the Vitra Campus

The Vitra Campus is known as the company’s production site and for its diverse ensemble of contemporary architecture. The world-famous buildings were initially built in the midst of a unique landscape of meadow orchards and vineyards. In 2020 this was extended by the garden of Dutch designer Piet Oudolf. Since 2021, the campus has offered a special home to members of the insect kingdom: three bee colonies that are currently looked after by two Vitra employees.

The bees feed on the perennials in the Oudolf Garten, producing around eight kilogrammes of honey each year, and provide a regular topic for biodiversity-related events and discussions.
Florian Braun and Florian Fenske, both from the Marketing Department at Vitra’s headquarters in nearby Birsfelden, had already completed a beekeeping course when they heard about the possibility of establishing and maintaining bee colonies on the Vitra Campus. ‘We were immediately enthusiastic about the idea,’ reports Braun. ‘The campus is an excellent environment for bees. All around the Oudolf Garten, they have access to the perennials, and of course the cherry trees on the campus are great sources of nutrients.’
Three bee colonies now live in the colourful boxes at the edge of the garden, which they share with the wild bees of the region. ‘The type of bees that we keep are definitely working animals,’ declares Fenske. ‘Their pollination activity increases the yield of orchards and of course they produce honey.’ However, Braun adds that it is important to the two beekeepers to keep the insects ‘in a manner appropriate to their nature. We want to give them more freedom than usual. On the one hand, this concerns the way they expand their hive and, on the other, we extract less honey than conventional beekeepers. In general, we try to intervene as little as possible.’
In addition, the region around the Vitra Campus is home to many species of wild bees. The two amateur beekeepers say it is important that the honeybees do not compete with the wild bees for their habitat. ‘You can learn a lot from bees,’ says Fenske. ‘You start to view plants and green spaces from the insects’ perspective. Wild hedges or meadows, for example, are incredibly important refuges for bees.’ The grass should be left unmown, not cut down to the ground. As a result, the lawn on the Vitra Campus is now kept waist-high for a certain period in summer, to the surprise of some visitors. But after all, people are not the only ones who should feel at home here.

Publication date: 9.9.2022
Images: Vitra

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