To say that I'm nervous, excited and ... obsessed would be an understatement. I have taken on preparation for the bees' arrival as if it was a full time job. I've read books, poured over online forums, watched countless you tube videos, ordered more books, made lists (surprise, surprise) and have even been taken notes on 3x5 cards as if I'm in the process of writing a research paper (I'm not- I just know how forgetful I can be). Can you say, "Bee nerd"?
The agreement between Jamey and I was that I would do the research, he would build the hives and be the bee man (the one who will work directly with the bees). Envision Jamey suited up in his white hood and jacket at the hives and me standing across the yard with my bullhorn shouting instructions and taking notes. Yeah, that will be us. Note: add bullhorn to supply list.
This arrangement sounded perfect to me as I started my research, but now I find myself pretty jealous. I received blueberry bushes in advance for my birthday- maybe I'll add a full bee suit to my Christmas list. If I can wait that long.
So, why is it that I am positively bursting with nerves and excitement over this endeavor? I mean, I was excited about chickens the year we first bought chicks- but nothing like this. I've been contemplating this for days- hence my silence, oh, and having my head stuck in bee books. I think why I'm so nervous/excited (an exhausting combination, thank you very much) is because I have grown to love and stand in awe of honey bees. Through learning about them, I have been bowled over by their absolute amazing-ness!
I started out knowing very little.
1) bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers and turn it into honey...somehow
2) they sting
3) I love to eat their honey
I might have know a little more since I've read a couple kid books about bees with my children and watched The Magic School Bus: In a Beehive. That was pretty much the extent of it. But, if you're like me, don't feel bad. You know that famous guy, Aristotle? The one that was so smart? Here are some of his writings about the workings of bees....
"The honeycomb is made from flowers and the materials for the wax they gather from the resinous gum of trees, while honey is distilled from dew and is deposited chiefly at the raisings of the constellations or when a rainbow in the sky."
"Some affirm that bees neither copulate nor give birth to young, that they fetch their young. And some say that they fetch their young from the flower of the callyntrum; others assert that they bring them from the flower of the reed, others, from the flower of the olive."
One of the most impressive things about bees is their collective mindfulness of the colony as a whole. They do whatever they need to do to ensure it's safety and survival. Imagine if people acted a bit more like this. Not only are they programmed to carry out very specific jobs at different points in their little lives (roughly 6 weeks long during the summer months), but they have been given the ability to make decisions.
Here is one of many, many, many examples I could give: A forager bee comes back to the hive with a belly full of nectar. She sits near the entrance and waits for another bee (a receiver) to take it from her and put it where it belongs. Depending on the number of seconds it takes for a receiver to appear, the forager will respond in different ways. If the nectar is received too quickly, with other receiver bees standing around waiting, it's a sign the receiver/forager ratio is out of whack, so the forager takes to "shaking" receiver bees, triggering their instinct to step up and become a forager themselves (the next duty in line after receiving) and then does the waggle dance to show them where to go. If the nectar is received in an appropriate amount of time, the forager just heads back out for another load. If it takes too long, it's a sign that there aren't enough receiver bees and the forager will go deposit the nectar herself and then go shake younger bees to trigger their receiver job promotion and maybe receive herself for awhile to help out.
Need another example? When a pollen forager comes back to the hive and deposits her pollen load in a cell, she will beg a little food from one of the nurse bees (who feed and care for the young). Depending on the protein content of that little snack (pollen is their protein), the forager will decide if the snack was a little on the protein-weak-side, meaning she should keep collecting pollen, or switch over to collecting water or nectar if the protein content was too strong.
If you're bored silly, I do apologize. If you find this fascinating, pick up one of these bee books and enjoy- even if you have zero plans on becoming a beekeeper. Learning about these creatures just thrills me- how amazing is our Creator?!
I guess that's why I care so much about our bees succeeding. Despite the threats, I want them to thrive. They remind me of us. While we're all clearly individuals with unique gifts, we could really learn a thing or two from the honey bee. The world's me-focus, consumerism, greed, hate and lack of empathy break us down. We're meant to live in community with each other- lifting each other up, putting each other first.
And this may be why I'm oozing honey and doing waggle dances in anticipation. Imagine taking me out in public these days. Say a little prayer for Jamey...will you please? Pin It