harmony of the hive
Last spring was an exciting time ~ our family began a new journey raising honeybees. It’s a seed planted years ago while reading the The Secret Life of Bees. The story is a wonderful wisdom about the coming of age of a young girl, Lily, who is motherless, abused and runs away from home. It is set in the South, during the 1960 Civil Rights Movement – a time when America forgot that all are created in the image of God. Underlying the journey is a mother lost and new ones found, the essence of maternal love, the beauty of forgiveness – and the transforming power of love.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons in the book is the redemptive simplicity of “choosing what matters”. Moments of being human…
“You know some things don’t matter that much… Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person’s heart – now that matters.” (Secret Life of Bees)
At the beginning of each chapter and sprinkled throughout the book are fascinating anecdotes about bees and little tidbits about the secret lives of these tiny buzzing insects. These were truly just as captivating to me as the story itself.
“Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require it’s social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.” ~The Secret Life of Bees~
Biologically, a hive is classified as a single organism – one body – whose sum is greater than it’s individual parts. As such, bees lives are all interconnected, in unison and harmony – their sole purpose is to do what is worthy for the hive. Within a hive are the queen, the female workers and the male drones. Despite her prestigious title, the queen is not in charge. Her true role rather is mother of every bee in the hive and they all depend on her to keep it going. She emits a substance, called the queen substance – kind of like a little bee love, the bees receive it through touch, and it unifies.
“The queen for her part is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours or less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness.” ~The Secret Life of Bees~
Without intervention, a queenless hive will die, so the queen’s presence literally holds the life of the hive together, just as a mother her home.
After the queen come the worker bees, female sisters. These girls are the heart and soul of the colony. Thousands of little worker bees with tireless hearts nurse, clean house, forage pollen and nectar, attend to the queen and the security of the colony – each one living selflessly for the others.
The male drones, larger than the workers, interestingly have no stinger. While they contribute a lot to the morale of the hive, they do not forage or provide protection. My apiary mentor- a very very kind and salty old man said, if you want to give your daughters a bee to play with, give them a drone…! My oldest daughter who is absolutely petrified of bees is willing to give it a shot!
Our bee populations are suffering and disappearing. We depend upon bees for much ~ and they are an indicator species, which is a mirror of the health of the environment. Within the hive of the world’s ecosystem, all creatures have a role, and while we might not fully understand it ~ even the smallest of insects make a contribution.
A bit of a reminder that all life on our planet is interconnected. It reflects a balance and so, the gentle remembrance that our God given role is not that of swatter or exploiter but as tillers and keepers of the earth – healers and stewards of our planet.
“Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals. Love the plants. Love everything. If you love everything you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” ~ Brothers Karamazov ~