What the Bees Tell Us

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Photo by Douglas Kirk

Who or what in your life reminds you that you aren’t alone? Is it your spouse, your pet, a family member, or long-time friend?

The other day a friend shared an article about an old tradition of “Telling the Bees.” As the granddaughter, and also sister, of two beekeepers, the article piqued my interest. I feel lucky to be part of a small group of people who grew up around beekeeping. It’s a labor of love and a large responsibility.

There are people who are afraid of bees and don’t like them buzzing around their heads, but there is an unmistakable twinkle in the eye of almost everyone when they hear about beekeeping or think about honey. I grew up watching my maternal grandfather keep bees. He taught us not to fear them but also to have a healthy respect for them. I’d watch him at the hives completely dressed from head to toe in a delicate white suit, using a devise to pour smoke into the hives. Then a day or two later, we’d have honey for sale in front of our house.

Reading the article, I couldn’t help but wonder that my grandpop must have known something that we didn’t know. My grandparents were tough farm-folks and never struck me as the type to anthropomorphize bees. But, as I get older, I’m starting to think that farmers know more about universal energy than anyone else. The tradition of “telling of the bees” is fascinating and reminds me a little of how Michele and I talk to our dogs. We make sure they know of everything going on in our lives.

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Amy with her brothers and grandparents in 1984

I wonder if my grandfather talked to his bees. When he passed away, my grandmom had enough respect for the bees to take care in finding the hives a new home. With so much going on – losing a husband of 50+ years, dealing with grief, being alone in a large house, dealing with what was left of my grandpop’s tools, etc. – the bees could have easily fallen to the bottom of the list and ended up dying off, but my grandmom found them a new home.

Unlike my conversations with my dogs, the tradition of telling the bees seems almost sacred. We know their value in our ecosystem, see them pollinating flowers during the warmer months, and know that the honey and wax they produce cannot be manufactured or recreated. And we have a healthy respect for them, knowing that they will sting us if we try to take advantage or harm them.

It make sense to me that those who have created a home for bees would include them in such traditions as telling them of major life events – deaths, births, marriages, or a prolonged outing by a family member. The belief seems to be that if the news wasn’t shared with the bees, there would be repercussions. In yoga, there is a saying that what happens in the microcosm, also happens in the macrocosm. What’s going on internally shows up all around us and vice versa. As we grieve, so will the bees. As we celebrate, so can the bees.

The tradition may have started based on superstition. But it seems that beekeepers were really just tapping into that universal connection – that whatever may be happening on a smaller scale could also affect the colony. We must all work together to get through this life. The bees are happy to live in harmony with us. They allow their keepers to take the fruit of their own labor, but only if done with respect and care.

It’s such a sweet tradition because it reminds us that we are not alone. The internet has helped us connect with people from all around the globe and be informed of events and news. But our connection to the ones buzzing around us in our day to day lives is where we begin to make the shift. In our grief, in our joy, our times of struggle or triumph, we have the opportunity to reach out and share. We have hundreds of friends around us (some with wings, some with two legs, or four legs) that can listen to and understand us. And by connecting and sharing – not isolating – we are stronger and will not only preserver but blossom and grow.