As a part of her From the Hive column in WNC Woman's Magazine, Sarah McKinney talks about a year in the beeyard, the life of the beekeeper, and the loss and learning that entails.
This time of year, I watch the buds on the maple tree with great anticipation for their blossoms. These flowers provide the bees with their first honey flow after winter. I am ecstatic as I stand outside in the warming sun, looking up at the heart red blossoms popping out of the maple tree towering over me, the sky a pale blue backdrop. In delight, I see the honeybees busily dance from one blossom to another. Their sweet buzzing sound fills my heart with love and it overflows.
We beekeepers have waited all winter to be reunited with our beloved honeybees. A winged worker bee stops on my arm to catch her breath, and as if to say hello. She looks as if she is wearing green puffy slippers and I chuckle. At closer inspection, I can see the green maple pollen filling the pollen baskets on her legs. She carefully navigates the extra weight she carries as she lifts in flight to return to her hive with her load. I drop the rake in my hand, hurry through the new grass and wildflowers that are starting to grow, and follow her down the hill to the bee yard.
I arrive to see the bees running onto their landing board and diving off into the swimming pool of flight. My heart leaps with joy as I stand in front the hives surrounded by the buzzing chorus of honeybees! It is the first day that it has been productive for foraging and warm enough to fly. Love is swelling all around me as I look along the rows of hives, my eyes searching each front porch. I am pleased to see a hardy population coming and going from them all. I move along the row and my heart stops as I see a bare front porch. I move closer for a better look, my face just inches from the hive entrance. I watch in sadness; my heart aches for I have seen this before. I put my ear to the side of the hive and tap, listening, as if for a heartbeat… no buzzing… just the deafening sound of silence.
Loss is something we all learn to endure and coming out of winter reminds us of that. We learn to heal and begin to open our hearts to rebirth and invite the life of Spring into our lives. Beekeepers see all this up close, in their own yards, with more and more losses every year. I know that a heart that feels the pain of loss when it happens is a heart that has loved deeply. Though bees are in a decline, I know that our love and work can change the story of the bees. With all the beekeepers, the gardeners, the lawn owners who have stopped using pesticides, the speakers who teach pollinator awareness, the farmers who grow clean food, the consumers who buy clean food, the lawyers who fight for the bees in the courts, the artists who shine the light on the bees, the scientists looking for solutions, the ones who donate time and money to the cause, and most of all you can and will make a difference and change this story.
Long live the bees!
Photo from Mountain Sweet Honey Company.