Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

photo the author

photo the author

I’m raising bees! Today I went outside to check on them, and the brilliant blue/ green/ yellow & black of their bodies glittered as the females laid multiple eggs in the tubes of my mason bee house. The newer one is almost full, and even last year’s (carefully cleaned out for another year’s use) is filling up.

This is such good news. Bees are dying, and it breaks my heart.

Surely there’s almost no one who hasn’t heard the dire plight of bees, and what it means for so many American foods (and farmers, not to mention the two billion dollars beekeeping adds to the economy).

For years, I’ve wanted a beehive (actually, make that plural). A couple, at least, of the beautiful hives that Dadant sells — with a copper roof, and on a cedar footing. I’ve been reading bee books — and lurking on the Northeastern Beekeepers of Oklahoma Association listserv (NEOBA) — for years.The beekeeper listserv is the best followup class in beekeeping you could ask for. I know this, because I took exactly 1/2 of the class NEOBA teaches; family matters intervened… :(

courtesy Google

courtesy Google

But it’s not the right time — and who knows when it will be? — to invest the $500+ needed to set up in bees. It’s not a cheap hobby, although it’s a fascinating one, w/ a history as old as human beings. There are cave drawings thousandsof years old, showing  bee robbers scaling cliffs with baskets to glean honey, much like the Nepali bee robbers do to this day.

So a couple of Christmases ago, one of my sisters bought me a mason (carpenter) bee house. It’s basically a gourd-shaped piece of wood,backed w/ woven basketry, filled w/ small bamboo tubes. Inside each tube, a female mason bee lays multiple eggs — males first, then females. The females hatch first, then wait for the males to hatch. And then there’s the mating dance. :)

photography by Andrew Newey, for The Guardian

photography by Andrew Newey, for The Guardian

Mason bees, unlike honey bees, don’t live in colonies, or produce honey for us. In other words, you can’t domesticate them. But they do provide pollination, and they’re every bit as interesting. Just different.

So despite not having a beautiful hive or two,I do have two mason bee apartment houses! And they’re filling up, even as I write. Somehow, this seems a metaphor for much of my life these days: learning to let go of what I thought I wanted, to appreciate the amazing world in front of me.

 

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