In recent years there has been a significant interest in the art and science of managing honey bees. The media focus on Colony Collapse Disorder is a piece of the explanation but might be part of a larger picture.
The rationalism of the Enlightenment liberated the western world from the controls of superstition, and the industrial revolution began the modern age of wealth and economic progress. The downside has been resultant materialism and environmental destruction
and thus more people died violent deaths in the twentieth century than in the rest of history combined and for the first time the majority of those deaths were civilians. It was also the century of holocaust and genocide, of climate change and
global poverty in the face of plenty, of moral collapse and social indifference. For the first time we have the power to destroy the planet that is our home, our colony, our nest.
Perhaps we are on the cusp, the tipping
point, of a new paradigm in which managing honey bees is symbolic of one way of regaining a sense of balance and proportion.
The old values are based on competition and fear, on a win/lose, control mindset using secrecy, conformity
and obedience with benefits and arbitrary freedom for a select few. Those who are different are seen as inferior and the earth is seen as an object to be exploited. It is a traditionally ‘masculine’ paradigm in which most American teens
can identify over one thousand company logos but cannot identify ten plants in their own back yards.
Last year for example, I took an observation hive to the Arts and Science evening at a local elementary school.
One of the worker bees was nearing the end of her six weeks of life and some of the children asked if they could hold her. The girls couldn’t wait to put out their hands while the boys pulled away in fear. What have we done to distance our
young men from the innocence of nature?
The new paradigm is one of cooperation based on openness and trust, on a win/win, nurturing mind set emphasizing team work, peace and creativity. Benefits are mutual and
diversity is a strength to be celebrated. The earth is seen as a living organism of which we are a part, perhaps even a superorganism, which is the term used by Jurgen Tautz to describe a bee colony.
point affects not just western civilization but global existence as we understand it. Some are still in denial, continuing to believe in the old paradigm of separation and exploitation; certainly it is very easy to do. Others feel a deep need to
live sustainably on this earth, in harmony with one another, feeling connected and alive rather than fragmented and alone.
So the paradigm shift is from attempting to control the world by any means possible to one of
respecting, caring for and nurturing all beings. For an increasing number of people this search can be witnessed in the groundswell of care for a threatened aspect of nature, which in this case is the honey bee. And, in the bigger picture,
it reflects a deep yearning for an understanding of the natural world and all the beings that increasingly populate it.
Just as a good beekeeper works with the bees so we must work with the world. Control has
to give way to a more loving, more ‘feminine’ approach, like the girls at the elementary school who reached out to that dying bee. Once again we need to understand, respect, rely on and trust the deep wisdom inherent in all of nature; coincidentally
they are the qualities that allow a colony of bees to survive and to be successful : cooperation, interdependence, communal decision making and a society that balances individual needs with those of the colony.
this is why, every time I hold a frame of honey bees, I experience a sense of awe and wonder.