I’ve been a backyard beekeeper since last October. I am by no means an expert and this Spring has been particularly difficult for me as a beekeeper. In brief, my colony had two queens and one Saturday morning, one queen and 10,000 worker bees swarmed to my neighbor’s soffit and tried to start a new home. Luckily, we were able to extract them and send them off to a farm. My remaining queen and small colony are fighting hard to rebuild.
It’s been an experience keeping bees. I never thought I would enjoy just sitting watching the symbiotic relationship of the bees, the flight patterns, their different roles and functions and how much they seem to enjoy just being busy. We can learn a lot from bees for home, work or just for personal introspection. Here are my thoughts.
Four Things I’ve Learned From Bees
- Keep Things Tidy. On a lovely day last winter when the temperature reached 50, the worker bees cleaned house and pushed out the dead bees. I suppose they could have just huddled in their hive, but no, they cleaned house. How much dead baggage or even dead thoughts do we carry around with us from day to day, month to month and year to year? What are untidy habits we have that keep us from getting what we want or where we want to go?
- When threatened, give a gentle buzz. Italian bees are very gentle. They normally don’t bother you until you do something like stand in front of their flight pattern or disturb their work too much. If you do, I have yet to see one bite as a first threat. They will buzz an exposed body part (hence the veil) to warn you are disturbing their work. It’s a gentle warning. They don’t tend to attack as first defense. There’s a lesson in that. Take pause. Share your concerns as a gentle buzz.
- Learn the ropes. Over its brief lifespan, a worker bee has many roles. She may be a nursery caretaker taking care of larvae, an attendant feeding royal jelly to the queen, the housekeeper or a forager flying out for perhaps several miles to bring back nectar and pollen. All worker bees assume these roles as part of their symbiotic community. Take time to learn the ropes, be a team player and understand the system you are a part of. What do you still need and want to learn?
- When the going gets tough, create a leader. Unfortunately, this is what happened to my hive. As we tried to introduce new queens, apparently the worker bees knew they were queenless and began the process of laying queen eggs. You really don’t want this to happen as you could actually wind up with a queenless hive. But I respect the worker bee girls. A colony has to have a queen to survive. The queen lays eggs and thus future worker bees. Sometimes life gets tough and we feel leaderless. Perhaps we really are leaderless. There is always the possibility a leader arises to the occasion. It could be you.