I have a feeling I am going to be writing quite a few posts about honey and bees, so I am calling this part one. I have recently fallen in love with bees. I am curating a show on bees, for one thing, and I also have a dear friend right now who keeps bees and has given me lots of honey. Actually, there is a long series of magical confluences which has led me to fall so in love with bees. I have even been using a mask of honey on my face to reduce inflammation/acne. Chiefly, though, I have an appreciation for the bees as pollinators of our food. We rely on them for turning flowers to fruits (I mean fruits in the botanical sense, which includes veggies with seeds).
The photo to the right is from my Behance Portfolio which depicts how fruits come from flowers. It truly is amazing to see the list of crop plants that are pollinated by honey bees. We need to do a better job of thanking our pollinators, of which not all are bees. There are of course many more pollinators that just the honey bee. The Xerces Society is a great resource for learning about them and for native pollinator conservation:
The United States alone grows more than one hundred crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S. (Xerces)
Thinking about thanking our pollinators sparks my memory to a recent beekeeping workshop I attended with biodynamic beekeeper Michael Thiele in Sebastopol, CA where we also talked about the oneness of the bien (the honey bee colony) and how incredibly sensitive the bees are to their environment and also to entire universe. Michael’s Gaia Bees site puts it so beautifully:
The old German word bien is an attempt to describe the oneness of the bee colony, and also recognizes its individual “personality”. The honey bee colony is one being in countless bodies. The biological term for this is super-organism. The bien is configured through the harmonious and functional relationships of all its parts. Every part depends on the other and all parts provide the necessary environment for their own existence. The colony is both a society of thousands of individuals as well as one super-organism, one bien.
At the workshop we started off by watching this very long and slow paced and beautiful German film on Skep Hives. Skeps are the classic dome hive shape most people would think to put on a decorative bowl or plate or in a children’s room. Many more incredible Skep Hive films are available here.
We covered a wide array of hive types, starting with log hives and then moving to include basket hives that Michael had made as experiments. We went roughly from frameless to framed hives.
Here’s a nice little family video showing the harvesting of honey from a frameless hive. It’s still built out in a box which is interesting, but the fact that they only chose to harvest the comb once the hive had been abandoned is a clue to the fact that it’s much easier to harvest from hives with frames that can be removed.
The aim of beekeeping does not have to be honey production of course. You can keep bees just for the joy of it, as Michael does.
Then we heard from Skye who had spent many years to design and make a beautiful Temple Hive.