Recently, my brother got two beehives- a total of about 20,000 bees. For first few weeks he’d go out and inspect them in shorts and a t-shirt, no bee suit or hat, no gloves. They’d almost joyfully swarm around him as he gently slid and lifted frames, turning them every which way to finally locate the queen, the heart of the hive. At the end of the inspection he’d brush and poke bees out of the way with his bare hands to save them from getting crushed by the closing lid. Although there are thousands of bees in a hive, he feels a responsibility to protect each one.
The hives continued doing very well- Max showed me frames of drawn out comb, honey, and “brood,” the baby bees. Watching the brood, we saw a new bee emerging from it’s cell, which was magical. I noticed some bees doing dances to communicate to others, something I’d learned about but never seen. The hive is a well-oiled machine, with every bee doing its own job, although they can adapt to different positions if need be.
One late afternoon, he went out to the hives to check on them. He lifted the lid and pulled out a frame. As a lion’s purr changes to a growl, the suddenly agitated cloud of bees became confused and uncomfortable. The weather was not warm enough to check the hives. Max started to panic, which in turn caused a few bees to give up their lives to sting him.
After this incident, the once-fearless beekeeper became scared of his bees. Instead of being their protector he felt like he was their victim. Bees can sense pheromones that people release when they are near- you can’t hide your fear. How could we get around this problem?
We got him a bee suit, and now, less afraid of their sting, Max is once again protector of his hives- a bee whisperer. Now that he’s more aware of the possible danger, he now has some healthy caution around the hives, but it’s great to see him excited about them again.
Honey bees are endangered because of our actions, and this is an urgent problem because they are critical pollinators for agriculture and food production. Without bees we would have to hand or machine pollinate plants, a task that could be even less feasible than it sounds. Beekeepers like my brother are helping to save the honeybees by having their own hives- however small their actions may seem, small acts add up to big change.
I am so proud of my brother for confronting his fear for the good of his hives, and the entire honeybee population. Our world needs more brave people who overcome their personal fears for the greater good of the planet. How can you make a positive difference outside of yourself this week? Would you confront a fear to help others? It can be something small, like reaching out to someone who’s having trouble belonging, or it can be big, like getting over a fear of public speaking to raise awareness about a problem. The world needs your voice.
“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” -Sonia Johnson