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|Posted on August 3, 2014 at 11:59 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on September 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on August 6, 2013 at 1:10 PM||comments ()|
This morning I went out to check my original beehive and found that half of the bees had swarmed with the old queen. The steady streams of workers were no longer there, though I could still see bees inside the hive. Although I never witnessed the swarm, I knew something had changed and I felt like a piece of me had gone with the bees. It had been over a year since they had arrived and interestingly, today is a new moon in my sun sign of Leo. Somehow I cannot see this as a coincidence, as my birthday is also next week.
This original hive was my initiation into the realm of bees. They taught me how to overcome my fears through working with the hive, they taught me about the mistakes I made along the way (and there were many) and they taught my son and me how to develop a love and respect for beekeeping, though it is not an easy art as it requires time, patience and dedication to get it right. It truly is about being a steward and developing a relationship with the bees and not about 'having' or exploiting them. Had I known how much it entailed, I probably would never have gotten involved. It's like that with many things in life, but in your heart you know that what you're doing is what you're supposed to be doing and you continue because a love gradually ensues and it envelopes you as each day your relationship grows and you look forward to it's existence and you can no longer imagine life without this passion.
The bees have become my allies in so many ways. They have taught me my priorities, how to conquer my fears and how to be prepared during these tumultuous times. Each step along the way has been like a milestone toward a better awareness of the beehive and how it functions in unison as one being comprised of many collaborators each fulfilling an important role. Though I'm saddened by the loss of half of my bees from my original hive, I am also happy and concerned for their welfare as they venture out into the unknown searching for a new home. I'm told they have three days to find one, otherwise they perish.
Gunther Hauk explains this process so well in his book "Toward Saving the Honeybee." Contrary to what has been done in the last century and the ways of modern beekeeping practices that often seek to exploit the honeybee, swarming is a natural process that is necessary to maintain the well being and vitality of the hive. Ironically, just when everything is fine at home, the food is stocked and the bees might be able to rest on their laurels, a new queen is created and half of the colony leaves with the old queen in search of a new home.
This is in sharp contrast to what we as humans strive for and live out during our existence on this planet. And yet, perhaps the bees' message is even more relevant during these times of upheaval and change-- searching out into the unknown, into territory that is at times both exhilarating and terrifying not knowing what you will find. Simply knowing that this is how it needs to be. Gunther Hauk and Rudolf Steiner talk about the swarming of bees as a rebirth of the hive. In essence it truly is when you understand the complexities and perfection that exist within a honeybee colony.
Interestingly, the swarming of my bees was part of a series of experiences I had involving both my original hive and a second hive that I acquired as a result of a swarm that we captured one evening hanging from one of our pine trees. At the time, I thought this swarm was my own, but later I came to see that it had probably been from a nearby property that also had bees, as I could tell that my original hive was still intact and the bees in the second hive were much more docile.
So, this past weekend I had to correct a mistake that I had made with my second hive-- that of not being prepared. I did not have additional beekeeping supplies ready in the event of a swarm and so when it happened, I was scrambling to put things together having to borrow supplies from a mentor friend and buy new ones. Because the main hive box was not my own, I would eventually have to switch this out with my own and that's what I did this weekend with trepidation because it meant taking everything apart and reorganizing the bees by myself. I had to do it alone because my son was away on a trip and my mentor was also unavailable.
What ensued was rather complex and unexpected. Amidst opening the hive and seeing the queen for the first time since I had begun beekeeping, I was so intensely focused on what I was doing and keeping the queen and workers safe, that I completely lost track of time. I became one with the beehive. They were part of me and I was part of them. It was as though I had gone on a shamanic journey, though I did not set out with this intention. Yes, I was functioning as a normal human being going through the activities of beekeeping, but at some point which I think was upon encountering the queen, I went into an altered state of consciousness and remember little from what happened thereafter. I just know that when I had everything rearranged and reassembled, I had no recollection of many of the things that I had done. As I spent time in my gardens, for several hours thereafter, I could not remember what exactly had happened to me.
Simon Buxton talks about altered states of consciousness achieved while working with bees in his book "The Shamanic Way of the Bee: Ancient Wisdom and Healing Practices of the Bee Masters." It is a profound book and one that at times is difficult to conceptualize and understand, if you have not experienced anything similar. It is nevertheless, a delving into the mystical and complex world of bees that we as humans have yet to understand fully. Though I do believe that ancient cultures once understood the honeybee much better than we do today. The honeybee has long been revered for its ability to work in such complex unison and produce such a 'nectar of the Gods' from within it's own body via the perfection of Nature and the beauty, complexities and high vibration of flowers.
I have spent a great deal of time observing the bees in my gardens and I can say that the relationship that exists between bee and flower is truly a love affair as I have ever seen. The fervor with which the bees gather pollen and nectar is really quite interesting to observe as they both depend on one another for their very existence-- the bee to create honey to feed its queen and colony, and the flower to perpetuate it's life cycle. What can we as humans create, if our very survival depends on it?
And so, my experiences with the bees have come full circle. I have experienced the joy of capturing a new swarm to create yet another hive to pollinate our gardens and offer us the rich golden rewards of honey-- gifts of which I have given to family, friends and neighbors. And I have also experienced the sudden anguish and sadness over losing part of a hive due to my inability to attend to the needs of the hive in a timely manner by not providing them with adequate space for their colony.
Did I error greatly by not putting on another hive box in a timely manner or was the rebirth of the original hive meant to be to serve as a signpost for a new life that is beginning for all of us-- the bees on their journey with their beloved queen and I having completed a year of honeybee stewardship and many, many years of healing the lands where I have lived, ready to face what new surprises lie before me in this ever changing world.
Blessings on Your Journey!
2013 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.
|Posted on October 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM||comments ()|
This is my first year beekeeping and although I'm so happy to have my own hive and see and feel the vibrancy that these bees bring to my landscape, it has also been a learning experience which at times is saddening and frustrating.
A few weeks ago I went out to check my girls (only the females work, as the male drones are just there to inseminate the queen and eventually die or are pushed out of the hive) and much to my dismay found many of them grounded or clinging to the side of the hive loaded with pollen. I knew something was wrong because ordinarily they would be depositing their pollen treasures into the hive, but these girls wouldn't enter and many were wandering around in a daze.
Pesticides were the culprit most likely. Honeybees will not bring toxins into their hives. Despite having travelled many miles and visited up to 100 flowers, these girls could only collapse in front of their home, symbolically honoring their queen with these hard won bounties. It is a sad sight to see for a caring beekeeper. How these workers managed to navigate their pollen laden bodies with the contamination of pesticides from the flowers they had visited is an unimaginable feat for one so tiny. These girls have to beat their little wings up to 12,000 times per second in order to carry a load of pollen back home. Visiting up to 2,000 flowers in one day, honey bees are exhausted in a few weeks when their short lives end and their tattered wings show all they've endured.
Most people don't realize how important the honey bee is to our food system as estimates have been put at 1/3 of our entire food supply being pollinated by honey bees. They are highly intelligent beings and display a complex communication network that has been researched and documented. Their hive is comprised of an equally complex system that includes one queen, workers that feed and care for the queen as well as the nursery, plus workers that forage for pollen, guards that stand vigillant at the entrance for intruders and also undertakers that take out the deceased bees and/or intruders. All that being said, I think it's time these girls deserve a bit more respect.
Recently at my son's soccer game I sat next to a woman and her granddaughter who kept referring to yellow jacket wasps as "bees" as they were systematically drowning them in a juice bottle. At one point I clarified that these were not in fact bees, but wasps and yet this woman continued to refer to them in front of this little girl as bees.
This is not the first time I've seen this type of aggression toward wasps by humans and this identification of them as "bees". While yellow jacket wasps may be annoying and can certainly cause injury, they are also pollinators and serve a vital role in a balanced ecosystem. People just don't realize that their attitude towards insects is affecting everything we do on this planet to eradicate them. This improper identification with anything that stings only perpetuates this negative attitude. Truthfully, we could not live without stinging pollinators because there is so much work that they do, that most will never realize or appreciate until it may be too late.
Honey bees are not aggessive. My 10 y.o. son occasionally helps me work with our hive and we have both observed the girls in action. Honey bees will generally only sting to defend their hive or themselves if they are suddenly startled or fear aggression due to someone's negative state of mind or carelessness.
Last weekend I spent a few hours helping a friend harvest honey from his hives. I have yet to harvest the honey from our hive and may wait until spring to do so to allow the bees enough honey to survive the winter. But we are already looking forward to sampling our very own honey for the first time and gathering wax to eventually make our own candles. I know my son is excited about both of these activities. I also know that next year our gardens will be much more vibrant due to all the work the honey bees did during the summer to pollinate the flowers. I look forward to the forthcoming years as the land heals continuously due in large part to all the work that the honey bees will have done. I hope that eventually more people will learn about beekeeping and decide to help these little creatures survive this imbalance that man has brought upon them. I know that I am profoundly grateful to my girls for teaching me the ways of this Earth and learning to check my own energy field on a constant basis.
If you live in WNY and are interestedin learning more about beekeeping, you can contact the
WNY Honey Producers Association which holds regular meetings and occasional workshops on issues related to beekeeping including how to get started with your own hive. Most cities and towns will have a similar organization to help you meet beekeepers and learn more about this amazing art.
I highly recommend you do your research and connect with these people or a mentor before attempting to keep bees on your own. There was a time when people apprenticed and spent a great deal of time learning the art of beekeeping because there truly is alot to learn, but it's well worth the effort. The benefits of a revitalized landscape cannot be measured in monetary terms. It is something that you begin to see and feel in your heart and in so doing, you know that your own well being is being supported by these miraculous creatures.
Bountiful Harvest Blessings!
Copyright 2012 Awen Environments / Clarissa Harison.
|Posted on June 6, 2012 at 12:00 PM||comments ()|
I'm convinced that chaos is the new norm, and that the challenge is all in how we deal with it. A few weekends ago, after much deliberation and some setbacks due to an unforeseen incident, my son and I picked up our new bee colony from a local beekeeper. Due to a severe accident that left this beekeeper temporarily in a wheelchair for many months, our bee colony was delayed and at one point, I resigned to the possibility that we might not be able to do beekeeping at all this year.
When this beekeeper's family stepped up and filled their customers' orders, we surprisingly were able to pick up our bees after a mini workshop on beekeeping at this apiary the same day. It was to be the only introduction to hands on beekeeping that my 10 year old son and I would have before being immersed in a series of incidences and synchronicities that formed the basis for what I now know was an initiation into the realm of bees and their loving wisdom.
I feel it necessary to discuss a bit of background as to my history with the stinging insect realm. Several years ago, while my son was still a toddler, I experienced anaphylaxis, which was an extreme reaction to the sting of a yellow jacket wasp. I had been gardening and unbeknownst to me, suddenly found myself allergic to these creatures. Nearly losing my life that day and also being stung several more times in subsequent years, I began to contemplate the message that kept repeating itself. Why were the insects reacting this way to me? The answer was my energy field of anger/irritability which I was putting out into the environment every time I gardened, something I wrote about in a previous blog Gardening with Nature: the Wisdom of Insects.
I had to learn to conquer my fears in order to continue gardening and recently I faced my fears once again by picking up my bees. Anything that could have gone wrong, did, and yet we were never stung by our colony because my son and I had learned a valuable lesson. If you stay grounded, if you send the bees love, and you do not show fear, you will be just fine. The bees showed us that. Despite all the stress they went through, they never became aggressive toward us nor did we ever get stung.
All the beekeeping books will tell you that if a bee(s) is injured, they will give off a pheremone that signals to the other bees to be on guard and become defensive. What happened that weekend, was enough to have given us a multitude of bee stings, but it never happened because we remained calm, focused our intentions and deep down I believe the bees sensed we were wanting to help them and have them become our allies.
Because our beekeeper had been experiencing a series of personal challenges after his accident, a sequence of steps occurred which led to our bee experience. The enclosure not quite secure, I noticed a bee had managed to escape. Surprisingly the person loading my car assured me not to worry and advised us to just wear our veils during our 1 hour return trip. I thought he was crazy, but agreed to go ahead and I didn't care about the stares from passersby. Nevertheless, we were still vulverable and the trip became increasingly stressful as more and more bees began escaping from a tiny hole and we watched them gather at the back of my SUV. My son was a real trooper though and we kept assuring each other to remain calm.
When we reached home and after smoking our bees to calm them, I realized that it was not even clear to me how to install the bee colony in my hive since we had never received proper instructions amidst the simultaneous goings on of the workshop. Luckily I managed to reach the beekeeper who informed me that the bottom sheet of wood to the box needed to be taken off, but unfortunately he ran out of screws and so there were also nails to be taken out. Well, screws you can slowly unwind, but prying nails out while a colony of bees have been stressed and are anxious to fly out is another story. Since I do not chose to harm any living beings, I was horrified to say that in the midst of all these activities and due to lack of complete instructions, I stood the hive box on end in the wrong way and inadvertently caused major casualties to the colony. I was devastated but had to keep moving all the while knowing that if the bees sensed my fear, we would be in trouble. My son stepped up, keeping calm and continuously smoking our bees as I took all the necessary actions to install the colony in their new home.
What a sense of accomplishment my son and I felt as we managed to get everything set up without a sting and we saw the bees slowly begin filtering out of their new home and drinking at our bird bath. Several hours later, a single, solitary bee came up to me and followed me around the garden. When I finally managed to let her land on my hand, she began grooming herself as if to say "we know you did your best and didn't mean to hurt us." It was a tremendously endearing moment for me which I will always remember. Later that night, I remembered the words of one of my Native American teachers who told me that sometimes animals we encounter do what's called a "give away" which means that the creature will sacrifice itself in order to assist us from the realm of spirit. Because the bees are communal in nature, it stands to reason that a multitude had to die to send this message to me. I knew that in that moment, the bees had become our allies and would be our lifelong teachers.
The lessons didn't end that day, however. The following afternoon while my son and I were hiking with two other people along Lake Erie, we happened upon a wild swarm of bees that were making a new home in an old oak tree in the woods. Having experienced enough stress for one weekend, my son was reluctant to stay on the trail and walk through the swarm, but I assured him this was no coincidence and that we came upon the bees for a reason. If we could manage to walk through the swarm without injury, we would have passed our initiation into the realm of bees. After some coaxing from our trail guides who walked through unharmed, my son and I both faced our fears once again and felt a tremendous sense of exhilaration from walking through this time a colony of bees that were probably not used to human contact and yet, once again we remained unharmed.
I am still in awe from our experience with the bees and I know there will be other challenges to face, but I know we will get through them. What matters is not what happens to us, but how we deal with and face the challenges we are presented with. This is increasingly becoming the message that I am receiving via Nature as the Earth and economies continue to shift, and we are faced with chaos that needs to be dealt with. There is so much that can be learned from the bees and all of Nature, if only we pay attention to the messages and confront our own innermost fears.
"Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved." excerpt from The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd
Blessings from the Bees!
2012 Copyright Awen Environments/Clarissa Harison.