She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.
The bees are here.
Lewis and I picked them up in Hillsborough from a guy who has a dusty old store devoted entirely to beekeeping.
It is an awesome place, like something from the old days, it smells of fresh cut cypress and pine and soft beeswax. From floor to ceiling it is stacked with wooden frames and various intricate pieces of beehives to assemble and heavy shelves stocked with lots of bee kitsch.
My minds eye couldn’t piece together the master plan (I was looking at the cute honey bear containers), but my son knew exactly what we needed.
After many wise and somewhat foreboding words from Mr. Bailey (you know the first year they usually die, right?) we loaded up the car with the materials for 2 large hives along with a smoke can and protective suit.
The next day we painted them pink to match the house and also to attract the bees.
I’m so excited I can’t stand it.
Lewis gently released the colonies and placed the caged queen in her nest. Next he poured a gallon of sugar water into the frames, then plugged the passageway that connects the bees to the queen with a single marshmallow. That way they will take their time as they fight and scramble to reach their majesty.
And the rest is the chemistry of attraction.
I can’t wait to watch them come out of the hives in a little zip-line back and forth from flower to hive. I hope they like the spot we’ve chosen in a high corner of the yard dappled with sunshine.
In Switzerland bees are well regarded, treated with the respect and importance they deserve. Up in the Alps they see the direct impact of the bee on the diversity and health of the flora.
The old timers never use protective gear and they allow the colonies to crawl all over their bodies. I’ve read that when a hive dies the farmer actually buries it with a reverence that is touching.
It is an ancient type of farming but still entirely viable. I saw hives everywhere – in the pastures, in urban settings, on top of buildings.
And now here we are in this country, taking up the hobby. But calling it a hobby suggests that it’s frivolous, and I don’t think that’s true.
I see the bees this way: if you study a honeycomb: the softly pliant, perfectly formed geometric shapes cast in dusky ochre – it is art of the highest form.
And not only in the product but in the interaction between all members of the hive.
And through my little kitchen window I choose to see hope. I believe there is no larger life without the smallest.
I choose to see the necessity of the violent mob scrambling toward the power of the queen. I see the death of the drones who have spent their diligent work for the hive. I see the robber bees, forced to kill and to steal the rich stores. I see the queen in her unrivaled and difficult role. I see the undertaker bees hauling the dead away.
I see the inter-connectedness within the apparent chaos that is like a single buzzing instrument within the huge orchestra of the fields.
And I choose to see the light, the golden cadmium, the sweet sun-saturated honey dripping with a wild and complex taste unlike anything else in nature.
And it’s like God’s imagination put all of this out there for me to see.
Saying look – see how the world can be?
Look at the honeybee.
For me, the hive is a perfect distraction from this sad old world. A way to brush away the negative in the pall of the news, to dust off cynicism like pollen from my wings.
That larger world feels like a planned distraction away from this orderly one here on display – the tiny mites out in the meadow.
Anyway, I’m excited to observe the hive my kitchen window, and then I will take some time to consider the bees. Their simplicity of purpose, their cooperation and diligence, and the beauty of the sticky treasure I will steal from them.
And I’ll try to learn something about the world from this reality show called nature.
I’ll be sending out my notes on the hive, with a bit of love. And I’ll let you know how it goes and what the bees bring back to us.