Adventure with Honeybees

On my last encounter with a beehive, I tripped, tumbled, and screamed my way down a grassy hill in a mad attempt to outrun an angry swarm of yellow jacket bees. By the time I landed in my mother’s arms, I had suffered fifteen bee stings in my butt! I was ten and impregnated with a new fear in an instant. As I sat in a bathtub of tomato juice to calm the stings, I sobbed and swore I’d never EVER get near another one of those angry, carnivorous bees again.

Etched into my mind for several decades to follow was this innocent misunderstanding that those bees represented all bees, and therefore all bees were angry and armed to sting if I so much as breathed in their direction.

Then one day, I heard whispers that the honeybees were disappearing mysteriously. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t made the HUGE distinction between yellow jackets and honeybees until that moment, long after entering adulthood.

I grew a healthy respect and admiration for honeybees at that point, as well as a love for their most delicious by-product, honey. I began devouring honey at glutinous rates. I poured that delightful treat on everything from coffee to toast.

Then, about a year ago, that admiration turned into a healthy obsession to understand this magnificent creature even more. I was sitting in my living room, flipping through some TedTalk videos, when I came across one presented by Dr. Marla Spivak, Why Bees are Disappearing. 

honeybees

When the video ended, I immediately knew I wanted to learn much more about honeybees and what I could do as an individual to help save them. I also knew that one day I would write a novel featuring these magnificent beings. Dr. Spivak offered several key ways a person could immediately help save bees. She suggested planting wild flowers and avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides. I knew I had a lot to learn, and thus one day I’d have a lot to share.

I contacted Dr. Spivak and she referred me to an insightful book, Lessons From the Hive written by a fellow Entomology expert, Mark L. Winston. I absorbed every ounce of information he offered. Then, I furthered my research by contacting a local organic beekeeper at Sweet Artisans Apiary in MD. I sat down with Steve and Kathy Sweet (yes, their last name is so cool and fitting!) and they educated me on everything and anything honeybees. When they spoke, they did so with a love kindred to that of a parent talking about their child. They consider their bees family. The admiration and respect they have for them caused my eyes to tear as I listened to them for four hours on that first encounter.

They later invited me back to their apiary to help them place their pollen collector trays in their hives. Talk about a rush! With the silly, ignorant fears of the past long gone, I suited up in their garage and then entered the apiary – a newfound paradise to my senses. The bees buzzed, danced, and went about their business of maintaining the hive as I stood a curious onlooker to their fascinating lives. Did you know that if you lean in close enough to the honeycomb hive, you can feel the wind from their wings?

I started writing The Dance immediately following this visit. Here’s a quick summary: The Dance is a dramatic story that deals with friendship, mentorship, and love. A beekeeper and an overwhelmed woman who is thrown into the thrusts of being a single parent to her teenaged daughter after her spouse dies, learn to dance around life’s ups and downs as they come face-to-face with the many parallels between them and the honeybees they begin to nurture together.

Here’s a little peek into my apiary visit adventure.

I’m curious… what are your thoughts on honeybees? Are there other activities you can think of to help save the bees. Please drop a comment below.

Wishing you the very best,

Suzie Carr, novelist

6 replies
  1. Isobel McCauley
    Isobel McCauley says:

    Very interesting article, Suzie. I have been very concerned this last few years and noticed hardly any bees or butterflies! I do not use pesticides on my garden at all, and do try companion planting. .I have got lots of wildlife friendly shrubs and plants in my garden, and I also allow so called ‘weeds’ to share the ground lol! Most of my shrubs attract bees and butterflies in masses. In particular the Buddleia, or butterfly bush. The Hebe also swarms with bees. I have various types of poppy and one in particular with a huge head, I don’t know the name of it, bees seem to swarm to it. For the first time in eleven years I have got a patch of buttercups growing in my lawn! I don’t now how they got there but I have decided to leave them. I mowed the lawn this morning and left the triangle shaped patch of buttercups there. I have decided to remove some of the lawn and leave it for a wildflower patch to grow. I hope to do this next spring.
    In the meantime, I believe the only way out of this damage to our ecosystem is to educate and campaign against these huge pharmaceutical giants who put profit before the environment!

    Reply
    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      Hi Isobel, This is the first year that I have not been visited by my friendly bumblebees. Every year, they visit me on my deck. They hover around, enjoying the wildflowers I plant in planters and my big tree. This year, they haven’t come. I also planted a large patch of wildflowers along the side of my house, and bees love it. They spend the day in it. Not this year. Not yet at least. I know my neighbors spray pesticides on their lawns, and the Management company hires landscapers who roam around the common areas of our community spraying the lawns with chemicals, then putting up signs afterwards to warn us to keep kids and pets off because of it. I am so angry about this. People would rather their lawns be without clovers and dandelions than save the bees. I’ve talked with neighbors too. Yet, they still spray the chemicals.

      Reply
  2. Patricia lavit
    Patricia lavit says:

    I know this problem and I struggled for years against pesticides! We cannot let disappear these insects so precious and so useful for the floral ecological balance! Take pleasure to listen the humming of these wonderful bees and savor the golden honey that they produce so well. It remains a magic and extraordinary Phenomenon!:)

    Reply
    • Suzie Carr
      Suzie Carr says:

      absolutely Pat. And without them, we may collapse too. They are essential, yet big government and everyday citizens still spray chemicals for the sake of beauty and abundance. Additionally, there are better ways to manage agricultural systems, but many farmers aren’t open to it. They over-farm the lands and ignore the benefits of biodiversity to make a profit. Yet, if they only reserved 10% of their land for bee pollinating plants, they’d likely enjoy a greater profit thanks to the beneficial pollinating of honeybees. Change is hard. Unfortunate for us all.

      Reply
  3. Lara
    Lara says:

    We need to use social media to put this issue in the fore front of national news. It is not the small farm so much as it is the corporate farms that don’t wAnt any regulation on pesticides and hold a very strong lobby in our goverment. I live in the middle of a small farm mica here in Idaho and yes the farms here are just as concern. They know how important honey bees are to inssure a successful crop without which they would end up losing their farms. Keep up what you are doing, educating and motivating people to action.

    Reply

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