Bees are amazing creatures. We’re lucky to have several types in our yard (honey bees, bumblebees, mason bees, carpenter bees), attracted to plants like rosemary, lavender, ceanothus, yarrow, and sage.
In an earlier post I mentioned the marvelous bee dance done by these pollinators in search of nectar. Without bees, we would not have many (indeed, perhaps most) of the foods that we love: fruit, vegetables, nuts, grain, herbs and spices – the list is mind-boggling.
And without bees, we wouldn’t have such rich myths: the Melissae, ancient Greek divinatory Priestesses of the Bee, came from an old order of nymphs – the very word for the larva of bees. The Minoans of Crete were beekeepers; bees’ magical ability to make honey was seen as divine alchemy. For ancient Egyptians, the bee represented royalty in the goddess Neith, and the sun in the god Ra – honey was known as the “tears of Ra.” Bees and honey also figured prominently in the cosmogony of cultures such as Babylonian, Incan, Celtic, Norse, and Indian. Bees symbolized the soul’s journey on earth as well as its survival after death; and the regeneration and renewal of nature.
Honey bees have been threatened in recent years by colony collapse disorder, or CCD, which occurs when worker bees abandon the queen and the hive. Scientists worldwide have deduced that their general declining health is due to stressors including pests like mites, and bacterial diseases and viruses; pesticides; poor nutrition due to loss of foraging habitat; bee management practices requiring long migratory routes for pollination services; and lack of genetic diversity.
Beekeeping is a time-honored tradition. There are also other ways to help: B. built an impressive-looking bee hotel a couple of months ago, filled with numerous small holes to encourage individuals to nest within:
I added my own modest effort to build a “bug hotel”:
Shelter and food are central to our existence, and should never be taken for granted. This time of year we traditionally appreciate our own good fortune, and also think more of others who are less fortunate. There is much we can do to help wildlife in need – as well as our fellow humans – along our shared journey through the renewal of nature.