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.