Just what IS beekeeping? Is it art? Is it science? Is it magic? It’s notoriously difficult to define. Is it a hobby? Is it a habit? Is it an obsession? Just what is it?
And what about those funny little bugs? Just what is it about bees? They sting, yes, so it’s prudent to be cautious when you’re around them, but can it be true that they only sting when they’re defending something? Who knew? And it’s a kamikaze mission, that once-in- a-lifetime sting of a honeybee. They never do it frivolously — it’s a life or death proposition for the honeybee.
Yet beekeepers can be seen standing, sitting, lounging in the vicinity of their hives for hours, and just watching. That’s it, just watching the bees flying in and out of the hive. It’s mesmerizing. It’s as if we think that if we watch long enough, we’re going to figure out their secret.
Truly, what we humans really know about honeybees is pretty limited. We cannot see inside the hive, we cannot see inside their minds, we barely even believe in a concept as advanced as a hive mind or a holistic super organism.
That’s probably one of the reasons that so much damage has been done – not only to the honeybee, but to our food system over the course of recent history. Because we don’t necessarily believe in magic or in a hive mind. We’re used to living isolated and alone, so how could this humble insect know, and live by, something so community-oriented, something so complex that we humans can’t understand it?
The honeybee has much to teach us about cooperation. Living and working together, taking only what we need, never damaging the planet that sustains us–but only ever helping and supporting it. We could go a long way on the things that we could learn from bees.
My Christmas wish to all of us would be this: that we take a lesson from the honeybees. That we learn to live in connection with the world around us: supporting and nurturing it, instead of industrializing and destroying it. That we learn to live in harmony with each other, recognizing the importance of each to the whole.
And as we take steps in that direction, we will find a sense of peace, of joy, of good will toward all men.
And that would make for a pretty good Christmas gift.