It was a beautiful, sunny day yesterday and my honeybees were out searching for pollen and nectar amidst a pretty barren landscape. The Maple trees are starting to unfurl their buds and luckily the Crocuses are starting to bloom, but there is not much else out there during this first week of Spring. Sometimes you wonder how these tiny creatures manage to find any pollen or nectar during those bleak days, but somehow they usually do. I was thrilled to know that my hive had survived yet another winter and to see several of my bees busily gathering nectar from the Crocuses that had just burst forth their brilliant colors.
It's been a challenging winter for honeybees in this region. We had a late, fairly warm winter with constant extremes of temperature and high winds which can wreak havoc on a hive if they are not prepared. I believe in the wild, the honeybees know what lies ahead and prepare accordingly just like many other animals do. Somehow their internal guidance system leads them to gather more food, develop a warmer coat or a myriad of other things that animals do to prepare themselves when they know a challenging winter lies ahead. What about when these creatures are living in the care of a human such as a beekeeper?
Last fall I decided not to harvest honey, just as I had done the previous year. To me it was more important to have my hive survive rather than to benefit from the harvest. That is to say, I left all the honey to my bees who rightly deserved all that they had created. To some that might seem crazy, but to me it was insurance against a hive that might not survive the constant fluctuation of temperatures which would create more stress on the bees. The more they were awakened from their sleeping state, the more food they would need and there was no way to accurately determine what that might be until the warm spring days arrived and nectar and pollen were once again available. To me, feeding them with sugar water is just not an option, as I feel it is unnatural and similar to feeding a child candy and junk food all the time. The bees need the nutrients from the nectar they have created to support the strength and immunity of the hive.
Many people just keep honeybees because they wish to have honey or sell it. Often they are really not thinking about the overall needs of the bees in a sacred relationship way. The bees are after all just insects and yet bees, as do many other animals, provide a valuable product and service for man. They pollinate our flowers and trees and offer their healing nutritious nectar, as well as revitalize the landscape. Our climate is changing and so is the challenges it presents to beekeepers and their bees. Much of the sacred relationship that beekeepers had in ancient cultures has been forgotten, but I believe if the honeybee is to survive, this memory needs to be reawakened.
As our planet goes through extreme changes, it is time to do things differently and look at the relationship we have with all life around us. We need the honeybees and all pollinating insects. Without them, humans as a species, will likely not survive. Treating honeybees as we always have, is not the answer to saving them. Restoring a sacred relationship and recognizing them as intelligent, creative beings is. These tiny creatures are no doubt, the keepers of great wisdom.