Monday, January 14, 2013

Zen and the art of... Bee Keeping??

Working with bees is oddly calming.
The first time I went to an apiary was when I shadowed another volunteer while I was still a trainee (refer back to ‘Boas, Bees and Babies’) and it was on the terrifying side. Having hundreds of stingers buzzing around your body can definitely bring up your anxiety, but it didn't keep me from wanting to work with them. At our second workshop we had a hands on demonstration and a bee flew into my ear and stung me, but that still didn't keep me from wanting to work with them. When you work in an apiary you will smash some bees and you will get stung, just accept it and go on.

Currently we have 11 hives with 10 to 15 frames in each and they’re all growing strong now that flowers are blossoming. One hive lost the queen and has created a new one. One hive is super productive, and super wild and aggressive. Some hives are growing slowly. Some hives are very neat and calm.  Others are building wax beyond the frames and connecting or making clumps. They are all the same type of bee, living in the same apiary, having access to the same blossoms, but each hive body has its own personality and level of productivity.

Every week I go out there I learn more. Knowing when and where to move frames. Understanding why some cells are capped or why some are different colors. How to spot larvae that are only a few days old compared to larvae that are close to maturity.  How to tell the difference between a worker (female), a drone (male) and Queen Bee. Spotting a queen bee in a hive is like spotting Waldo in a super hard game of Where’s Waldo, but when you do and you see that she’s healthy it’s very reassuring.

Bees are very intelligent creatures and they pick up and react easily to scent and energy. It’s very important for you not to have strong body odor when you go to the apiary and it’s also very important for you to keep calm when you are around the bees. If you are frantic then the bees will pick that up as a threat and will attack you. If you are not covered then it wouldn't be surprising if they went up your nose or in your ear to terrify you. Trust me, it’s scary having a bee buzzing around inside your ear.

You can learn a lot from bees. They are fascinating creatures; so small, yet so important to the entire life web. When you are around a large amount of them they can trigger terror or create calm. Have you ever watched a bee die after it has stung you? It’s a slow and seemingly agonizing death (if a bee can feel agony). It reminds me of those samurai stories where the samurai will take his own life to protect his honor. A bee simply wants to produce more honey or produce more bees and live in harmony with life around it, but she will take her own life if it’s to protect her honor.

… a little too anthropomorphic? 

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