Updated: May 4, 2021
Today I was talking to my mom about how my installment went and what it was like bringing these bees into the space.
Installment days and first spring inspections are so special, much like any first experience it sets the tone and acts as a strong foundation for how we build and create our momentum moving forward. This in particular experience demands my full attention and I'm constantly checking myself to make sure that I'm never giving into my initial reactions which has me wanting to respond out of instinct. My true intention is that it is a bonding experience and my nervousness is not getting the best of me and I am managing the space exactly how I want to which is in kindness and devotion.
I have to make sure I’m staying calm and not reacting to a sting or fear when I have all the bees dancing around me. I’m taking it all in while managing sensory overload AND simultaneously making sure I’m doing all the correct things; WHILE adapting properly to all the quarks and kinks that were coming up. It’s a huge day and by the end of it I was so proud of how well I did (but I was exhausted.)
I was feeling a lot of relief that the day was over while, simultaneously, feeling sad that it was over too.
My mom told me that’s exactly how she felt after giving birth to me. After labor, there was a level of sadness that it over after having just spent hours wishing for the experience to be over with. She found herself missing me even though I was right there in front of her.
I love my bees and feel deep maternal care for them and I acknowledge it’s part of what makes my love for them so magical.
I had to show them I’m not this scary grizzly bear that wants to rob them, but rather my presence is of a gentle flower that is there to explore and study them (and occasionally make adjustments so they stay.)
I had to move slow and while some beekeepers tell you to spank the box of bees into the hive to get it over with, I don’t think you should ever hit your babies (winged or human.)
It’s an act of foreplay to get the bees into their hive.
Each step must be enjoyed and never rushed, knowing that each part of the process is contributing to an even greater one and it's all a part of the experience of being a keeper. I didn’t have a time rush or prediction for how I foresaw this happening. Far too often in commercial keeping bees are kept on a time system and scale because they are being capitalized upon and profited off of. There is an intimacy and romance that is lost within this human and bee translation, which acts as a transaction. However, I don't feel we are too far gone and we can redeem our relationship if we begin to enter back into a reciprocity exchange dynamic with the bees.
Rather than seeing the bees as something we can profit off of because of what we wish to gain (ie. products, money, etc) we focus on the experience and the symbiotic contribution that we will be fostering by having them on our land and in our lives.
Could I hit the bees out of the box to get it over with sooner? Sure! Did I want that? No. Is there another way? YES!
I placed them gently into the hive and told them they could come out when they were good and ready. I expressed that there was no rush and I would be coming back in a few days to check on them.
I tucked the queen into one of the top bar frames to encourage the bees to trickle out of the hole I left open, but never once did I force them to come out before they were ready to. There is already so much chaos happening that smacking your bee box defiantly is not helping the situation. My job is to stay calm and welcome the bees, greeting them as they flow out making it so when I ask them to please stay they will want to.
I’m picturing them slowly emerging out of the hole where a handful of bees will begin to work day and night to chew through the sugar cork and free their queen. By the time she's free, she will see that the other bees have been busy making it their home because they saw what a safe and hospitable home I crafted for them. One that would be truly fitting for a queen. They will begin to build their fortress and home within it.
My deepest desire within beekeeping is this honor.
That I will make a space so safe for the bees that they will call it their own and make it their home. It will become the space they return to after a day full of exploring, collecting nectar and pollen, and fighting off spiders and primantis. The hive that I built will be what they return to and no matter the distance and happenings that will be what grounds them and act as their gravity. Bees are extremely self-regulatory creatures that KNOW how and where to find safety. They know what makes a space hospitable for their growth. As a beekeeper it's my duty to keep it that way so they stay and feel protected, cared for, and given the space to be what they are.
So when a hive chooses to stay…I take so much pride in knowing I contributed to creating a space so safe that the bees wish to stay. They allow me to grow with them and be the type of beekeeper who wants to be in relation to them. Bees are very domestic creatures despite how much they go out and pollinate, they like to seek and wonder, but they enjoy having a place to come home to. This is where being a backyard beekeeper is recalling the sacred and true form of beekeeping. It is one that is stronger than the farming which migrates them and keeps them working year-round. No. Bees work with the seasons. They need to nest and need a place to return to in order to feel safe, secure and kept.
Home should feel like an exhale and as a beekeeper I want them to feel safe, not taken from.
While tucking them into the hive, I whispered sweet promises of my protection and curiosities which seeks to learn with them. I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, much like my mom who I'm fairly certain had no clue what she was doing when taking me home from the hospital. However, you figure it out! There is an instinct that comes over you and a whole lot of love that tells you what to do. Most of the time the bees are telling me what to do and I'm simply responding to them. I'm just having to read their signs and it's a language I'm still learning.
Luckily for me, bees are extremely forgiving and resilient creatures. My only true job as a beekeeper is to make sure that I'm checking myself and never allowing my initial reactions to be stronger than the deepest desire in my heart. There will be times where I will want to react out of fear or pain, and sometimes I'll make those mistakes, but the bees will forgive and I'll learn. I'll keep going, figuring it out because what is never lost in translation is the true alignment of my core belief which is to love and devote myself to them.
In my final moments of kissing them into their hive, I introduced myself to them. My lullaby was of promises that my presence will be one that will be kind and curious. That they will be free to be their wild selves and that they will always have a home with me. I will forever be thankful that I get to be the beekeeper who gets to be the one who tends to them and become their guardian, protector, and lover. The one who greets them and tells them welcome home~