About ten years ago, I stopped by the beekeepers area at the state fair. They didn’t tell me about bee lore. Instead they blew my mind with all the interesting stories about colony collapse disorder, the importance of bees to the planet, and most of all honey flavors. I decided then and there to become a beekeeper. I wanted to be a part of saving the honey bees. The next spring, I got my first two hives.
Colony Collapse Disorder
In 2006, lots of beekeepers reported bees abandoning their queen. That year, beekeepers lost 30 to 90% of their hives. This just doesn’t happen. The queen is everything. She is the future of the hive. Why would bees suddenly leave lots of honey, pollen, and brood with few workers to care for them? This means death! Pesticides, varroa mite infestation, and poor nutrition (due to monocrop cultivation) are blamed for the problem.
Bees as Pollinators
As honey bees gather pollen and nectar, they go from plant to plant. Some plants, like almonds, depend almost entirely on bees to stay alive and produce food. Blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent upon bees for pollination. Seventy out of the top one hundred food crops rely on bees for pollination. Honey bees produce about $20 billion in crop production annually. No bees, no food. So beekeeping is an incredibly important business or hobby.
Farmers rent bees for the time that their plants are in bloom to ensure a good crop. When the bees collect pollen from only one type of plant, their honey picks up the colors and flavors of that plant. This is how we get thyme, blueberry, orange, clover, buckwheat, locust, and tupelo honeys. These are natural flavors, not flavors that are added afterwards like mint. When the honey is produced naturally with whatever is growing within the two miles around the hive, it’s called wildflower honey. It’s a mix.
If you’re not a beekeeper or honey enthusiast, you might not know those things. If you don’t have bees, you probably don’t know that there is all sorts of spiritual lore associated with them too. See? Life’s holistic! It’s not just practical, but spiritual too. Here is some of the bee lore from around the world.
- Bees are messengers of the Otherworld. They can travel back and forth, bringing messages from the gods and the dead.
- If a bee flies into your house, it’s good luck.
- If a bee lands on a baby’s mouth, he will be great speaker or storyteller.
- Scottish Highlanders believed that the soul left the body when sleeping in the form of a bee.
- Bees are family members. They need to be informed of special events like births, weddings, and deaths. This is especially true if it is the beekeeper’s death. To fail to do so invites bad luck. The bees carry these messages to the Otherworld.
- Bees don’t like harsh words. Never quarrel in front of a beehive. When tending the hive, use low, soothing tones.
- If bees rest on your roof, good luck is coming. The 180,000 bees who lived in the roof of Notre Dame slept during the recent fire and survived!
- Never sell a hive. You can barter or give it away. It’s bad luck to sell them. They don’t like this.
- Many cultures consider the bee holy by many because of its service. Worker bees spend their lives working for the survival of the hive.
- Bees are symbols of wisdom, discernment, service, creative imagination, desire, fine character, and royalty.
- Ancient Egyptians believed bees came from the tears of the sun god, Ra.
- Bees reflect reciprocity. They sting to defend their queen and honey. They pay for this with their lives.
- If a bee lands on your hand, money is coming.
- Mead (made from honey) and honey are medicinal. People all over the world use honey for healing and have for centuries.
- In ancient Egypt, people often left honey as a gift for the dead.
- Ancient Mycenaens buried kings and queens in beehive shaped tombs.
Bees also reflect the Pan Society path of sovereignty, connection, and Oneness. There are three roles for bees: workers, drones, and queens. Each is true to itself. Drones fertilize queens. The queen lays eggs. Workers clean the hive, gather nectar and pollen, feed the queen, drones, and larvae, and make wax. In this way, they all contribute to the survival of the hive. Unlike humans who all want to be queens, they don’t try to be who they are not.
Workers are 75% related to each other, so perhaps this is why they are so dedicated to the collective. Whatever the reason, by being who they were born to be, they cement their connection and leave the path open to Oneness. It’s animism in motion! If you want to know how to be, just look at Nature. As within, so without.
Are you a beekeeper? What stories have you heard? What have you seen? Share so we can all learn together!