Building Beehives During Home Isolation

The Editorial Director of MOTHER EARTH NEWS shelters in place during the pandemic and spends that time building new beehives.

article image
by Hank Will

At the time of writing this, I haven’t been to the office for more than a week, in part because I stepped down from my role as Editorial Director to focus on our farm before I get too old, and in part because our company has encouraged us to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. I came to the office today to record a podcast, and it feels a little eerie with so many desks empty.

I’ve heard from several folks who are in an understandable panic as our world gets turned around with attempts to slow the virus’s spread. I’ve felt empathy, sadness, and some uncertainty, but not panic. In the realm of things that matter to us, my family has a certain abundance. We have plenty of homegrown food in the freezers, the chickens are laying up a storm, the nearest neighbor isn’t close, and the garden is awake. None of which we take for granted.

I spent part of the week sheltering in place by building seven new beehives from scratch and assembling about 100 frames, complete with wire and a strip of foundation at the top. It’s a project that I would’ve completed regardless, but this year, it’s completed well before swarm season, for the first time. A couple of days ago, while stapling frame parts together, I felt grateful for the unencumbered time to truly experience the joy in the journey of completing a task I once found highly tedious. Joy comes more readily when there’s time to do what needs to be done.

Yesterday, a friend texted to ask if he could buy completed hives from me. I declined — it would take too long to make more than we need, for any reason. Years ago, I would’ve said yes. And had that been the case, I’m afraid I would’ve grown to so dislike the task, that instead of building beehives, we’d be looking to purchase one or two hives this year because that’s all the budget could bear. The economists tell me I should pay money for things that take me too long to create myself — I say that taking my time doing things I enjoy makes more sense than taking on debt, stress, or even needing to pay for a vacation from it all.

Hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic will show signs of abating by the time you read this. I ache for all the folks who have lost loved ones, or who have been hit hard economically. If you’ve had any profound experiences while sheltering at home, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to send me an email at, and we’ll try to include a few letters of inspiration, grief, or discovery in an upcoming issue.

See you in August,