I believe the bees are in trouble, because of our collective ways of using and abusing this planet. Naively, I also believe we can help them.
I bought a Flow Hive during their massive crowdfunding campaign. It’s been sitting unopened in 2 separate brown boxes for over a year. The last place I lived had a “no bees” policy. In preparation for getting a nucleus of bees, I have been doing internet research. To be honest, I feel a little scared.
When I was a very little girl, while bees and wasps were still the same thing, I was at the house of my parents’ friends. They had a very mean little boy, about the same age as my older brother. He was old enough to know better. They also had a big slide, the kind with the big red metal arch over the top that I had seen on playgrounds. I remember asking the boy for permission to go on the slide. I remember the grass hadn’t been cut, it was long and dry from the heat. I remember getting to the top of the ladder and seeing that it was full of bees and wasps (I now know it must have been just wasps) and not knowing if I should go quickly through and slide down fast or back down the ladder slowly, because they were angry and after me. I think I screamed. I think I chose the fast route. I don’t remember what happened next, the only other memory I have from that incident is sitting on the bathroom counter with my mom and the boy’s mom, crying, as my mother consoled me and cleaned dirty feet and my many stings with a washcloth. From then on I was told I was allergic to stinging insects, as I would swell up excessively if stung.
Many years later I was on the other side of the continent, and I had another encounter – with real bees this time. I wasn’t having a very good day, for a multitude of reasons I won’t go into here, and I was walking to golden gate park while crying and feeling sad and angry. I was noticing that every square foot of the city felt like it had been trampled on, even in the beautiful, huge, lush park I could smell the stench of old urine and see dirty evidence of humans everywhere. I desperately wanted to find a little patch of undisturbed nature. A bee caught my attention, flying directly across my line of sight, and very close to my face. I stopped. I heard buzzing, saw more bees, and walked slowly closer to them. A hive in a tree in the park in the huge overpopulated dirty city I had just been mentally complaining about had me transfixed, and grounded, and awed. I stood and watched the bees for quite some time. They have very specific flight paths, I noted. Their cooperation is beautiful and steady, predictable. I searched carefully with my eyes for the hive deep in the tree trunk, in vain. My breath was slow and I had regained my sense of self, my sense of purpose. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true, that experience changed something in me. I didn’t want to go back home for a long time, and by the time I felt the urge to start walking I was full of such joy and excitement I was practically skipping.
Now I’m in a different chapter of my life, a very different chapter, and about to bring a colony into my tiny backyard. Ten thousand bees. Here we go.