A beehive, a hat and some charm

A beehive, a hat and some charm - Nature

When the hive is abuzz with activity, he is in his element. For Urs Nutt, a life without bees is no longer imaginable. As part of the Graubünden young bee-keepers project 'Flugschnaisa', he shares his knowledge with the next generation. His latest venture: "Grischa Biena uf da Schiena" – a 2017 bee-keeping tour of the canton with a converted RhB railcar.

«As a bee-keeper, my job is to ensure the hive is happy.»
Urs Nutt

Urs Nutt is a man on a mission. This becomes clear as soon as he pulls up in the Rhaetian Railway car park in Landquart and steps out of his decommissioned police transporter. The sleeves of his honey-yellow T-shirt are rolled up. A bee is emblazoned across his chest, the logo of the Graubünden young bee-keepers project 'Flugschnaisa'. As head of the police negotiating team for the Swiss canton of Graubünden, he is often called in a crisis. Whether it’s a case of domestic violence or hostage-taking, his team is deployed to try and diffuse the situation. Bee-keeping provides Urs Nutt with the necessary work–life balance, helping him recharge his batteries. And although police work and bee-keeping may seem worlds apart, according to Urs Nutt, there are certainly similarities. "In both cases, support is key. As a policeman, I can lend my support to the public. The same applies to the bees. As a bee-keeper, my job is to ensure the hive is happy and doesn’t swarm."

On being asked when he was caught by the bee-keeping bug, Urs Nutt can’t help but grin. He actually developed a taste for it after an on-duty colleague just happened to mention a bee-keeping course. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to take part. "At the end of day one of the course I just knew I had to have bees," he says, retrospectively. It was also by chance that a fellow participant just happened to be selling an apiary. Nutt now takes care of 20 to 30 beehives spread across seven locations. Between spring and autumn, he clocks up countless kilometres with his transporter, as each hive must be checked at least once a week.

"We’re coming to the kids"
Urs Nutt is almost proud to say that "It was hard going!" He is standing in front of an old Rhaetian Railway railcar, which he and a few volunteers completely hollowed out to create a rolling bee exhibition: "Grischa Biena uf da Schiena". The interactive railcar is set to tour the Swiss canton of Graubünden in spring 2017. "We’re coming to the kids instead of them coming to us."
Urs Nutt knows from experience that the younger generation is really interested in bees. In 2010, a group of bee-keepers from the region of Chur started the Graubünden young bee-keepers project 'Flugschnaisa'. A nine-day course turns pupils into little bee experts. Their classroom is the apiary in Rhäzüns, right on the edge of the forest. Here they learn everything about the interaction between nature. The beautifully scented meadow in front of the apiary is ablaze with colour, from the purple meadow sage to the yellow archangel. The bees fly from one flower to the next and are a wonderful example of species diversity on rough pastures. From the balcony of the apiary you can clearly see the reason for the name 'Flugschnaisa'. As Urs Nutt explains, the bees fly towards the hive at the same angle as they leave it. The angle depends on the lure of the honey. The different path chosen by the bees every season is known as the 'Flugschnaisa', or flight path.

«Children should learn to understand the importance of bees at an early age.»
Urs Nutt

Passionately involved
Two dozen mini bee-keeper suits hang from a rail in the apiary. Each suit bears the name of a young bee-keeper and has leather gloves stuffed in the pockets. Three bottles of insect repellent can be seen on top of the mirror cabinet. "It’s important to prevent the children from being stung, otherwise they lose interest," says Nutt. So far, none of the children have dropped out of the course early. Ultimately, this would mean missing out on the grand diploma ceremony. "I did get a nice letter from a grandfather thanking us for teaching his grandson so much about bees. Maybe one day, he could take over his beehive," says Nutt. And that’s what it’s all about, making children aware of biodiversity and teaching them to understand the importance of bees at an early age. His eyes light up when he lists all of the Graubünden valleys in which "Grischa Biena uf da Schiena" intends to stop – and explains how the interactive railcar may one day conquer the whole of Switzerland. "I’m just really passionate about it," says Nutt, almost apologetically. "It’s great working on something as a team." Once the "Grischa Biena uf da Schiena" gets rolling in 2017, Urs Nutt’s mission is accomplished.

"Grischa Biena uf da Schiena"
A mini cinema is being installed in the old RhB railcar to show films about bees. Visitors can use the workbench to make lip balm from beeswax and a real eye-catcher awaits at the head of the train: an apiary. Here you can watch the bees set to work through the glass.