Saturday, 26 January 2013

It’s not about the honey, Honey - it’s about the Bees!

Back in the early days of Gold Star Honeybees, when it was a beekeeping service, long before I offered the first Gold Star Deluxe model top bar hive for sale, I had some brightly colored t-shirts printed up, as many enthusiastic entrepreneurs are wont to do.  On the front the shirts said, “It’s not about the honey, Honey” – and on the back they said, “It’s about the bees!”

When talking about a super organism (and what is a hive of bees if not a super organism?) it can be difficult to get far enough away from the subject to get the kind of perspective on it that is broad enough to see all the parts.  You get a case of that “can’t see the forest for the trees” thing going on.  So I had some people say to me… “What? How can bees not be about honey?”  I think they thought I was missing the point.

Well, as it turns out – there are three very important things that bees are about – and that they do without any encouragement from us at all:

Thing One:  Bees make more bees.  Bees do this amazing thing called “swarming” – a little bit scary, a little bit magic.  It’s a bit like cell division, a process involving the entire hive.   It’s nothing like when a mommy dog and a daddy dog get together, and then you get little dogs.  Bees just don’t work like that.  They reproduce the entire colony at one shot – at the hive level.  If they weren’t able to do this – we’d likely be all out of bees by now, with the problems bees have had over the years, thanks to us humans.

Thing Two:  Bees pollinate a lot of the food we eat.  That means:  fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts… if we didn’t have those foods, we would have only oatmeal, bread, essentially, grain or “gruel”, if you will.  What about meat, you ask?  If nobody’s pollinating the alfalfa – what’s a cow to eat?  (It’s all connected remember?  Oh wait, that’s another blog post…)

Thing Three:  Bees make honey.  Oddly enough, honey is what honeybees EAT!  And bees are pretty smart about that – they know to be industrious and make honey while the sun is shining – in preparation for times when there isn’t any other food.  That’s what they are spending their time doing when you’re watching them – that, and pollinating, and getting ready to make more bees.

So the upshot of the whole conversation is that if you’ve got healthy honeybees – there will be some honey!  It’s all part of the natural system that goes on inside a beehive.  But it has to start with the bees.

Healthy bees do all the important things that bees do without any coaxing or cajoling or forcing or manipulating.  So it would seem that the important thing for us humans to do would be to focus on healthy honeybees.

So you could say it IS about the honey, Honey.  But only AFTER it’s about the bees.

Bottle of honey

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