The hobby beekeeper currently tends four bee colonies on an agricultural meadow belonging to a friend of the family a short distance from Aachen. And, as you might expect of a German engineer, he goes about it pretty thoroughly.
“I haven’t trained as a beekeeper. You simply correct any operational errors as you go along,” he says - and can’t help smiling at his own choice of phrasing. Even his approach to starting out as a beekeeper was methodical: He got hold of an annual calendar in the Internet with a to-do list for the jobs needing tending to throughout the year, and read up a lot on the subject.
“The local beekeepers association is also very helpful. They usually give you your first colony, and every few weeks or so, a mentor comes out and gives you useful tips,” Dechêne explains.
In the meantime, looking after his colonies has almost become something of a routine: He checks up on them every nine days in the summer to make certain that all’s well, opening the hives and making sure the queen is still there. Come the fall, there’s nothing more he needs to – or, in fact, can – do for his bees. They then simply form a winter cluster to keep each other warm during the cold season. But before that, of course, he takes out the last of the honey, which adds up to 150 kilograms or 200 to 300 jars in a good year. He sells them or gives them away in the company. “That's a good connecting factor when getting to know new colleagues. It always gives you something to talk about during the coffee break,” laughs Dechêne, who is the International Sales contact for technical issues for over 40 countries. And so he does good in two respects with his unusual hobby: helping the environment – and, at the same time, those around him.