Molly Turner, Certified Herbalist
“Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”
Sue Monk Kidd-The Secret Life of Bees
I’d like to introduce you to the man in America we refer to as the “Father of Beekeeping,” Reverend Langstroth. You see, he was a man who took an extraordinary interest in the lives of bees and in turn invented the beekeeping box that we call the Langstroth hive. This hive allowed us to remove honey without killing the living, thriving colony of honeybees. Before his revolutionary invention, the only way we could harvest honey was to poison, burn, or destroy the colony.
Reverend Langstroth suffered from an illness that he referred to as his “head troubles” – we now know it was indeed bipolar disorder. Bees brought the Reverend life. He devoted his time to beekeeping on 10 acres of land in Ohio where he kept his “bee garden.” Rev. Langstroth planted Linden and Apple trees, Clover and Buckwheat, along with a multitude of herbs and flowers that bees love. Working with honeybees brought peace to the Reverend. He was able to face his depression and focus his mania constructively and the bees offered non-judgmental acceptance.
The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
Henry David Thoreau
It is no secret that honeybees command respect in their presence, respect upon approaching their hive, and respect in partaking of their liquid gold. I have come to appreciate this and welcome it. You see, one cannot simply barge into the beeline, pry open the lid, smoke them silly and steal their livelihood. My friend, the truth is, bees are not aggressive, yet they are defensive. Honeybees will teach you to summon up peace from within and the offering you bring in exchange for their sweet nectar is tranquility. A colony of bees can read your mood, the same way a horse can. This being one reason I encourage the keeping of honeybees, they are a beautiful sun-kissed mirror of your heart – and this particular heart medicine is one you cannot bottle.
Many beekeepers these days refer to themselves as ‘bee guardians.’ Those of us who keep bees know we cannot truly “keep” the bees and therefore will them into making honey for us. Rather it is inviting them into our yards and embracing their wild nature, allowing their ‘sweet’ coaching to train us and give us permission to be ourselves.
So, let us again invite bees into our yards, gardens, rooftops and chicken pens. Set up a beehive for all of the reasons we are familiar with: the wonderful edible and medicinal gifts of honey, beeswax, pollen, and propolis; and of course, “saving the bees” and their all-important job as pollinators. Yes, do save the bees, and allow them to save us.
“Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.”
Sue Monk Kidd- The Secret Life of Bees
Flottum, Kim. The Backyard Beekeeper. Quarry books, 2014.
Chandler, P.J. The Barefoot Beekeeper: low cost, low impact, natural beekeeping for everyone. 2009.