The bees are holding steady.
Five days ago, we found them completely under siege; hundreds of bee bodies laying everywhere, fighting bees rolling around trying to sting each other to death, tens more trying desperately to guard the entrance while troops approached ready for battle. As beekeeper, I felt helpless and vulnerable and guilty for somehow failing my tiny sisters.
That night we attempted a bold maneuver and cloaked the hive in netting, making sure that they had food and water inside the bounds of their temporary fort.
Each day I would find hundreds of bodies strewn about the platform that the hive stands on, with several drowned bees floating in the sugar water and water bucket. At the entrance were a steady stream of live bees coming to push out the dead.
Yesterday, amidst the pouring rain, after 3 days of being veiled, we uncovered the hive. We refreshed the water, removed the food and swept away the fallen soldiers. We crossed our fingers and we waited.
Today the temperature reached into the 60’s and sunny. Incredible for mid-November. The bees were out and pissed! I called Roberta, my mentor, for advice. I had been avoiding this call for fear that I would be scolded for having jeopardized the hive in some way. I knew that, up to this point in the siege, we had done all that we could do. Now I needed to know if my instincts were right.
She told us that our idea of the netting was “ingenious”. This was a brilliant strategy to give our bees some time to fall back and replenish themselves, while getting the robbers frustrated enough to leave. The fact that our bees were now aggressive was a good sign, they were on their guard. Trying to get into the hive, and smoking them in the process, would only lower their defenses and make them vulnerable to another attack. It was best to wait a few days, then go into the hive and see how much honey had been robbed. While the bees were able to regroup, they were not out of the woods yet and we needed to watch for more robbers, re-net if necessary, but most importantly, see if the honey losses were severe enough to warrant feeding them through the winter.
By now you have realized that the pictures you are looking at are not of bees. These are shots from our trip to the American Museum of Natural History that we took this past September. First, I had decided to put these photos in because looking at pictures of dead bees is quite depressing. I now realize that there is another reason. Many of these creatures died by the hands of man. And yet, all of the creatures that died, did so in order to help further educate humanity on their lives. In a way, isn’t that what my bees are doing for me? Do I have the right to determine whether or not they live, through the way that I choose to care for the colony? Is my education, and the education of my family (and my blog readers) enough to justify the death of the entire community of a life form?
This is a picture of my kids sitting at a Starbucks in NYC, before we went into the museum. On the walk over, they had collected the leaves that they liked the best and were spreading them out on the table to examine. Here they were, in what some would argue the #1 metropolis in the world, buzzing with people and cars, in wall to wall concrete, and my kids were collecting leaves.
This is why I keep bees. It breaks my heart to sit and wonder if, by my ignorance, others might perish. However, I know that the ultimate goal is not to collect honey or be named “World’s Best Beekeeper”, but to instill a love of nature and a respect for others in my children. If I can raise a generation that appreciates how honey is made and what it takes to care for something as small as a honeybee, then maybe future generations will be safe from the ignorance of their ancestors.
While the battle continues on, so do the lessons. Life can be mean and painful and hard, but we respect and honor Nature… all of Her. There is no good and there is no bad. And we are a part of it all.
I can’t tell you what is going to happen with my bees. What I can tell you is that I am so very grateful for the opportunity to stand by as it does.
Tags: Bees, death, Farming, Honey, museum, netting, robbing, siege, sugar syrup