When I started keeping bees as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer back in the late 90s, I had no idea that this assignment would turn into the professional declaration that is has become for me.
I thought all honeybees were the same. But over the years, I quickly learned that like people, there are different races of bees with diverse personalities. Some honeybees are more suited for warmer climates, while others for colder. Some are more pest- and disease-resistant, while others can be gentle, yet less productive. There are numerous beekeeping publications online and in print from well versed professionals and overnight experts. It can be daunting trying to decipher which ones to pay attention to and which to ignore.
Even more daunting is the fact that once one decides to become a “beekeeper” (as opposed to a bee-killer or simply having bees), that one must learn about the surrounding landscape, the weather, and what their neighbors are doing to their land.
“If only I knew then, what I know now.” This age-old adage is what encourages me, one who has been keeping bees professionally for the past 20 years — and who declines to label herself as an “expert” but more as a life-long student to the craft — that it takes a community to raise bees
And it takes a community to enlighten each other. The bees encourage us to notice the seasonal choreography between light and life, between flowers and fruit, between bees and seeds. Like the bees, we humans learn the steps to a sacred dance that transcends our immediate lifetimes.
Like bees, we humans learn to stop and smell the flowers. We learn to feast during the harvest and to conserve our preserves. We tend to forget that we are a part of this sacred dance. The bees do not forget. And thanks to them, we are invited to rediscover our dance steps and to help nurture the connection between light and life, food and family, and our individuality as it relates to community. Blessed are our bees.
Melanie M. Kirby is a professional apiculturist, honeybee breeder and consilience researcher based in New Mexico. She considers herself to be a seed saver — with the bees as the seeds — by finding and sharing quality stock lines with beekeepers around the nation and globe. In her spare time, Melanie makes honey wine and exquisite medicinal hive products and beeswax arts. Connect with Melanie at Zia Queen Bees and Rocky Mountain Survivor Queen Bee Cooperative.
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