Sacred Beekeeping

Persephone's Hive

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

A view of Hope's Garden, a naturalized garden filled with wildflowers that was once mowed lawn and former wetland where many trees were dying. In the distance, the former location of my hives behind my beekeeping gardening studio.

My new hive of honeybees arrived in the middle of the night during the new moon in Libra. It had been a disappointing summer for me with my bees. The one hive that had remained from last year, after my stronger hive disappeared completely one day, had survived an unusually warm and wet winter. I was thrilled when I saw in the spring that they were still alive and active. However, as the warmer weather arrived and I opened the hive, I saw that it was all full of mold and that most of the bees had eventually died leaving only a a small group of loyal bees surrounding their Queen. I almost didn't see her as I opened the hive, but there she was having fallen to the ground. I named her Milagro, Spanish for miracle.

I carefully placed the enduring Queen in a new hive box with the remaining bees. The box had to be located right where the other one had been because otherwise the bees would not find the hive. I knew that I had made a mistake in placing this hive behind my studio shed given all the wetness in the hive and the loss of so many bees. Despite being elevated and insulated from the wet land where there was an underground spring, the dampness had permeated all parts of the hive. I had to find a new location but I couldn't move this hive to a sunnier area on my property. I had to leave that up to them.

I decided to place an empty hive box in a sunny area right in the center of a six-sided mandala garden I had originally created when we first moved to the property. Interestingly the six sides correspond to the shape of the honeycomb, something I wasn't really thinking about when I originally created it. Little did I know at the time that this garden would eventually surround one of my bee hives. Much to my surprise, my bees did eventually swarm to this empty box. I even saw the magic of that day as all the bees swarmed round and round the gardens above their new home. It was an incredible moment. A few days later, I saw a new Queen outside the hive box, something she only does when she mates. I knew the old Queen had died. It was both sad to know the Queen that had survived beyond all odds had passed shortly after taking one last flight of freedom (she remains almost her entire life inside the hive laying eggs) to arrive in her new home and yet it was also exciting to know a new one had been born.

Sadly, this new Queen and her bees only stayed a few weeks before they swarmed once again. It was that kind of year. It seemed the bees were searching for something. What it was, I may never know, but it seemed to reflect the uncertainty within my own life and the swirling of activities around the world, whether they were natural disasters or human caused activities.  Somehow I sensed that they were telling me a phase of my own life was coming to an end. The next few days I felt the terrible silence in my gardens. It became very noticeable as there seemed to be no bees of any kind anywhere on my property, not even bumblebees. I began to question whether some aerial spraying had been done somewhere. The fear began to set in as I began to feel that all these years of creating a wildlife sanctuary had been for nothing and that possibly something awful was happening in my area to make all the bees disappear.. 

My fear prompted a conversation with one of my shamanic teachers who suggested I communicate with the Spirit of the Land to determine what was going on. As a result I journeyed and did a subsequent offering to the land of fruits and granola to honor the Insect Kingdom. Almost immediately the next day a new swarm made her home in my empty box once again and the same day, a friend told me that he had also caught a swarm for me. The arrival of these new bees coincided with major flooding in our area of a nearby creek. My joy was to be short-lived, however, when a few days later this new swarm disappeared also and eventually my friend's swarm did too. That's when I began to give careful consideration to whether I would continue beekeeping at all. Nevertheless, I could not ignore how quickly the Insect Kingdom had responded to my communication and offering. Our co-creative relationship had been profoundly renewed.

20170916_164800.jpg

Eventually bumblebees and other wild bees returned but I still missed having a hive of my own but I saw how quickly I could move into fear and think the worst. I knew in my heart that despite what I might see around me, I needed to maintain my focus and trust all the work that I had done. My land had become a sanctuary for all lifeforms, a haven where wild bees could nectar endlessly and even wasps were respected. Despite what I might see temporarily, I needed to have faith in the natural world around me.

Some time had passed when my friend told me his nephew had caught another swarm for me, but I had mixed emotions. It was very late in the summer and the bees would not have much time to build their hive and store their honey. He mentioned that his nephew could continue feeding the bees and keep them over winter. Somehow this idea didn't sit right with me. I felt that either they should remain with his nephew or I should have them. It was shortly before the Autumn Equinox that I decided this new swarm should be here. After all, I had loads of late blooming flowers on my property that would help them and also some empty frames that still had honey on them. I would do my best to strengthen them and take the chance.

After the bees arrived one night, I stood before the hive as they fanned themselves from the heat of the trip. Several bees flew onto my clothes as I held the flashlight. They were sensing me and their new home, but then I became a bit nervous. One bee eventually found her way inside my sweatshirt sleeve and stung me. The sting, however, never produced a reaction in me, as though our energies were already aligned. I found their energy to be very gentle yet strong and somehow I sensed this new Queen and hive were already in resonance with me. I felt hopeful once more that they had arrived for a reason.

I named this new hive after the goddess of the underworld, Persephone. These bees had arrived late in the year and in the dark of night. They would spend much of their time inside the darkness of their hive before they experienced their first spring on my land. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter who was fated to spend part of her life in the underworld but in the spring she brings forth the flowering of the meadows. The archetype of this goddess is one I resonate with and somehow I felt these new bees represented the energy of rebirth on my land and in my life.

Several months have passed since Queen Persephone arrived. I have continued learning from these bees particularly about how to let go and just go with the flow. She has taught me about my own inner shadow and how quickly my thoughts can move to fear and worry. Several times this fear would creep up quickly as I became angry about mistakes I had made which occasionally caused the loss of some of my worker bees. Usually this coincided with other things that troubled my mind. I also worried the bees would have enough honey stores built up for the winter and whether they would survive.

So far we have had a very warm autumn and the bees have been out periodically. I have occasionally fed them raw honey and comb that I had left from my other hive. Feeding sugared water, as is commonly done, was not an option for me. The bees have always been grateful for the honey I have given them and as time went on, I realized that I had no control over whether they would survive. It was all up to them. I could only do my best. Those times where I made mistakes were learning lessons for me about the bees and working with my own emotions that surfaced. I know that all is well. Queen Persephone is yet another teacher and grace has fallen upon my land.

 

2017 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.

 

 

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.