Beekeeping became the way to work after fleeing Iran

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It’s a cloudy day and the bees are a bit tough. It must be over ten degrees and preferably sunny for them to go out and look for nectar. “They’re a little angry today, they run up,” says Behboud Zare, noting that black clothes, which I happened to be wearing, are bad when you hang out with bees. He himself stands next to the cups in his white overalls with a protective mesh hat and a cake of wax between his gloved hands. Despite protective clothing, he can get a hundred stings in a day. The smoke from the burning grass in the puff of smoke calms the swarming mass of bees. Each hive holds a colony of 20,000 to 60,000 bees. The beehives that are here at the edge of the meadow at Rhubarbergården in Undersåker, a few miles from Åre, are just a handful of the total of 105 hives that Behboud Zare has posted in various places in Åre municipality. He grew up in Iran and started as early as 15 -year-old help his father with the beekeeping. His interest grew and he applied for training to become a certified professional beekeeper. After the training, he expanded his activities to just over 200 communities.“On the farm we have also pomegranate, almond trees and grapes,” he says and shows a film on his mobile phone from home, and the cackling of the Rhubarbgarden’s hens is temporarily replaced by the sounds of completely different birds. But seven years ago, at the age of 40, he had to leave his life in Iran. He is a Christian, which led to problems with the government in the Islamic-ruled state. “I wanted to go to the northern part of the world, where there aren’t that many people,” he says. The first place he reached in Sweden in 2015 was Malmö. After two days in Scania, he was placed at the Continental Inn asylum on the outskirts of Åre, where he lived for nine months. He got a job as a cleaner. Through the church, he came into contact with Urban Widholm, who with his social commitment helped many new Swedes to work. “Urban called me and asked if we didn’t want any beehives, which I thought was great fun,” says Olle Sundemo, owner of Undersåker’s carpentry. Olle Sundemo owns Undersåker’s carpentry, where Behboud Zare is employed. In the summer months, he mainly devotes himself to beekeeping. Photo: Malin PalmqvistAlong with his Olle Sundemo’s wife also runs a small farm, Rhubarbgården. By employing Behboud as a carpenter in Undersåker’s carpentry and then hiring him out as a beekeeper to Rhubarbergården, he can ensure that Behboud Zare can devote himself mostly to beekeeping during the summer half-year. At the same time, he has employment and support all year round, something that is also a requirement for eventually getting a permanent residence permit in Sweden. In Iran, his wife, whom he met during the years in exile, is also waiting to come to Sweden. The honey, which goes by the name Fjällhonung, is sold via reko-ring, which is a digital marketplace for local food crafts, to local restaurants and via Åre chocolate factory, which also buys honey for its nougat production. The fact that summer is high season for both house building and beekeeping has been solved by Behboud Zare training as a loose wool fitter in wood fiber insulation, which is often carried out in late autumn. There is a big difference between working as a beekeeper in Iran and in southern Norrland’s mountain regions. Despite the fact that the summer is short and unpredictable and the winter long and snowy, Behboud Zare thinks that the Swedish mountain world has a lot to offer a beekeeper. In Iran, he moved hives between different parts of the country during the year depending on heat, drought and flowering. In Sweden, it is not allowed to move bee colonies around the country because of the bee disease varroa, a mite that, despite its small size, can wipe out entire bee colonies when the bees’ wings become shriveled. Varroa is a big problem in most of the world, but so far almost the entire county of Jämtland is varroa-free, a relief for a beekeeper. “There are a lot of flowers here, it’s better. In Iran, there is not much rain and drought is not good for bees, then you have to move the bees often in order for them to get flowers,” says Behboud Zare. Pollen analysis of the honey shows that the bees have lapped up nectar from, among other things, raspberries, heather, rallar rose, blueberries and lingonberries, which are then made into honey in the hive. Some of the hives are in Åre Björnen, where Skistar buys in a pollination service to benefit the biodiversity on the mountain. “If you have more monoculture, there will be few flowers, then it will be, for example, a rapeseed honey. There will be much greater variety here,” says Olle Sundemo. In recent years, Behboud Zare has invested in building up the number of bee colonies rather than producing as much honey as possible. When a bee colony grows and thrives, the queen may decide it’s time to split the hive. She then lays several queen eggs and gets ready to leave the old hive at half strength in a swarm. As a beekeeper, it is then important to be alert and share the society and give the queen a new hive to build a nest in, an offshoot. Otherwise, it may happen that the queen leaves with a group of worker bees in a swarm.”Bees are like children, it’s just as much work,” says Behboud Zare with a quiet smile.

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