Beekeeping

Finding Balance with the Bees

A new Queen surrounded by her loyal worker bees.

A new Queen surrounded by her loyal worker bees.

At the beginning of this year I was happy and relieved to know that my only remaining honeybee hive had survived another unusual winter. Little did I know after inspecting the hive that much of the bees had died due to excessively wet conditions within the hive. I have always elevated my hives and insulated during winter but much of my property was formerly wetland with a natural underground spring on a portion of it. While I have been working to regenerate the land and restore balance, apparently there was just too much moisture near the beehive, despite the bees being very strong the previous year.

So when I opened the hive I was shocked to find the Queen surrounded by a small cluster of workers remaining that were fluttering their wings in protection of her. She had fallen to the ground as I began going through frame after frame of dead bees. Finding the Queen still alive after falling to the ground, was a miracle. I decided to name this tiny hive Milagro, Spanish for miracle. I carefully placed the Queen and remaining bees in a new clean, hive box nearby. The original boxes had been filled with mold. The first time I had seen such a mess after a winter.

So as days went by, the new hive appeared to be thriving. I really had wanted to move the hive to a drier location on my property, but I've been told, you either have to move your bees several miles away or only a few feet, otherwise they will go back to their original hive. About this same time, a neighbor had asked me to help him with some bees that had gotten into his siding. In preparation, I placed an empty hive box in a dry location within my mandala garden in which the bees would be surrounded by flowers.

Suddenly one day I was mesmorized by a swarm of bees above the empty hive box in the mandala garden. It was truly an awesome sight to see. I felt blessed that they had chosen my land to create their new home in and it filled me with feelings of awe as I watched the vortex of bees circling around for quite some time before they settled in. Little did I realize at the time that my original hive Milagro had left their hive box where the land was wet and settled into this drier, healthier location. It appeared I had caught my own bees.

A few days later I noticed the Queen outside with a male Drone bee and several workers. Apparently the old Queen had died and a new one had taken her place. I was saddened that the Queen that I had miraculously found on the ground that day, had only lived a few more days in her new home before she too made her transition. At the same time, I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of the new Queen outside after her mating ritual. It is the one and only time she normally comes outside and I had never witnessed this before.

I felt hopeful that my small hive in this new location would flourish but it was not meant to be. Despite the lushness of all my naturalized gardens given all the rain we've had and the revitalization of the land, it has been an unusual year for bees and my hive with their new Queen, chose to swarm once more a few weeks later. One day I looked and the entire hive was gone with only a few bees left behind. I was devastated. In speaking to others, it has apparently been a year of much swarming in our region.

I have always felt that the bees reflected back to me the energies of my land and the transitions within my own life. This year is no exception. I have felt the chaos around me due to world events and the uncertainties within my own life. My sensitivities and my deep connection to Nature always has me feeling the energies of the land. The bees seem confused at times as the Earth goes through her changes and we all experience the extremes of climate change and chaos. All that I can do is focus on what I have created and let go of my expectations and know that my intentions are what matters most in this changing world.

The Sacred Hive

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.