Some people believe that bees are faeries. I don’t believe they are faeries but I do believe they are sentient beings that faeries, being nature spirits and custodians of the earth, care for.
One would have to live on another planet not to know that our honey making friends are in trouble but what you may not know is that earth spirits are doing everything necessary to insure their survival. They are whispering in the ears of many enticing them into the rewarding pursuit of bee keeping. One of the recipients of these whispers is my friend George. A couple of years ago he decided it was time to raise some honey bees. George’s reason for this had very little to do with acquiring honey. His idea was to help give local bees a safe place to live and thus possibly save some swarms that might otherwise be lost to all the environmental threats being ravaged upon them. I believe George has some very powerful faerie allies around him. (Sometimes I wonder if he actually has some Fae blood, but that is a thought better left for another essay.)
His first move was to learn more about bees. He spent hours scouring the internet for information. He talked to other bee keepers and read anything he could get his hands on. Before long George became a font of information on the care and feeding of the honey bee. Then last year he decided it was time to finally make a start. He gathered up materials, much of it recycled, to make his first beehive. After it was finished he then went about the task of attracting some local bees.
Using the skills he learned from his research he built a small attracting box in his pine tree and was able to entice a small swarm of honey bees within about a week.
From there he carefully transferred them into the beehive he’d made and placed it on a small wooded space near my house.
The hive grew and eventually, to George’s delight, separated and gave him another whole colony to place in his own back yard. The two hives thrived throughout the summer being a delight to his little grandson who would fearlessly help grandpa with his periodic hive inspections.
Originally George was not going to harvest any honey the first year but during one of his inspections he managed to take a small quantity of comb that had accidentally fallen out of the frame. He brought me a tiny jar with this lovely pale golden comb of wax and light amber honey dripping off it. It was beautiful in its simplicity. Then I tasted it and was surprised to taste mint in the honey. When I talked to George about it he agreed he had tasted it as well. It was then that I knew where the bees had been working. There is a space about 20 or 30 feet square in my garden which I have allowed to go wild and it contains mostly mint, about three or four different varieties. George told me later he was told that mint honey fetches a higher price than other honeys.
Summer turned into fall and fall to winter and George continued to care for the bees until one day in early winter some kids were seen near the bee hive. When George went to investigate he found the top had been tampered with. He replaced it and tied it down tighter than before. He also put some fencing up to try to deter any future invasions.
As soon as we had a day above 40 degrees a couple weeks ago the bees in George’s back yard were out looking to sun bathe so he decided to check on the other hive in my woods. To our great sadness he discovered that the hive had died. After some research George found that the hive’s demise was probably caused by it being in an area that didn’t get enough air flow thus causing too much moisture to form which turned into ice crystals when the temperature went down causing the bees to freeze. It was also possible that the top had been strapped down too tight after the invasion occurred.
Sometimes lessons can be learned from books and through other people’s experiences but the ultimate ones are always learned through trial and error. We both learned that putting a bee hive in a densely wooded area is a definite no-no. A mistake that will never be made again.
The silver lining to this tragedy is that we each got a peanut butter size jar of honey and George now has honey instead of sugar to attract and feed a new colony and natural comb to begin building their new hive with, a definite improvement over last year. He is still not sure where this new hive will end up but he is looking forward to another year of bee keeping and learning, and so am I.