Kim Monjoy

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KAAT BYRD: How did your story with the bees begin?

KIM MONJOY: My bee story starts at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  They hosted a Bee party in 2010. I kept hearing about bees being in trouble for the past year or more, I went and attended a talk by Sam Comfort.  I was hooked, the whole feeling of this party was so wonderful.

Just relaxing in the grass after the talk, taking in the live music watching the bees land and feed on the white clover right next to me in Brooklyn, NY. Seeing a couple dressed in swimsuits inside a screened tent with tons of bees around them.  I got this feeling of intoxication and that I needed to become more involved.

I did some research, at the time I was living in Tribeca, next to Pier 26, NYC.  People were keeping bees in the city, but the laws had not been changed just yet.  I wondering if Pier 40 would be into me keeping bees on their roof and if so where would they eat.  There is the newly redone flowers and trees section along the Hudson River Park but would it be enough for them.  Didn’t have to wonder too long because even with me reading about bees and visiting a bee keeping group in Brooklyn.  I moved to Ocean County NJ.

I had some land and thought about looking into wild life rescue for bats and other animals.  I attended a bee talk of my current mentor of sorts.  His bee keeping  views were different from what I had heard in Brooklyn, I would soon come to realize every bee keeper I would meet had different thoughts about keeping bees.

I knew that Sam’s talk really stuck with me and in the winter of 2013, I would place an order with Anarchy Apiaries for 2 Top Bar Hives with Nucs and some drawn comb to arrive in May of 2014.  That’s when things got really going.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

KM: My focus is to have a safe home for the bees, and try not to harm them as I think I’m helping.  Take time to think out what to do instead of just reacting, I’ve done in bunches of bees thinking  that I was acting in their best interest.

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

KM: My yard is without treatments, I live in an old section of town (Historic) so most of the plants are well established and older.  I try to grow native plants, tell my neighbors about my bees so they smile and think when they see them visiting their yards.  Try to educate them out of buying new flower stock from big box stores, and let their lawns be chemical free.

KB: What threatens your (work with the) bees and how do you work with these threats?

KM: The threats are all around from the area mosquito authority (zika fears) to the new guy getting his yard sprayed, to people who think you shouldn’t be keeping bees at all.  I try to keep the hive behind my house so I don’t attract a lot of attention. Trying to deal with really strange weather patterns and drought.

KB: What are you working on right now?

KM: I’m just going into my 4th season and hoping like heck that my hive will make it through the other side of winter.

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Silver Maple Tree with a Top Bar Hive set inside the cut opening so the bars can be inspected.

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

KM: I lOve listening to the treatment free podcast by Solomon Parker and reading Happy Hour At The Top Bar Hive blog posts.  I was super excited to have Micheal Bush reply to one of my newbie questions.

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

KM: My favorite bee story happened last winter, after cleaning snow and ice away from the hives entry a single bee came to see what all the ruckus was about. I took off my glove and she climbed my finger.  I thought it would be as simple as me holding my finger to the entry for her to just climb off and wander back inside.  She had another idea, as she turned and climbed up the sleeve of my coat.  At first I just gently shook my arm looking for her to drop out, then a bit more.  No good.  I figured that the motion and my many layers of clothes had done her in, but just encase.  I sat in my car with the heat blasting and removed the coat and 3 layers of clothes to find her resting on my bare skin just taking in the warmth.  All I could do was smile.  For now, this is my favorite story to tell.

KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

KM: Think before action and (consider) what would happen if you did nothing.

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Jacqueline Freeman

jq-bees-2-copyKAAT BYRD: How did your story with the bees begin?

JACQUELINE FREEMAN: My story with bees began in 1983. I was attending an educational course for a few months and each day I ate lunch near a swimming pool. I noticed a honeybee who had fallen into the water. I found a stick and scooped her up and placed her on the grass. Then I noticed another and did the same. And another. One by one, I rescued every little bee in the water. The next day I did it again. When I say this, you’d imagine I did it about ten times, right? I’m guessing I rescued nearly a thousand bees that spring, every day until every bee was okay.

I had zero experience with bees, but this was a powerfully driven call I could not ignore and became a daily task I felt drawn to complete. Until I took up with keeping bees 20 years later, that was my only connection with them, but geez it was a powerful one. I still check bodies of water anywhere I go to be sure they’re all safe.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

JF: My work as a guardian is about helping bees live full lives free of worry, surrounded by love. I began with my first few hives, then I was asked to remove bees from an old one-room schoolhouse that had them there for about 80 years. Word got around and I started getting calls from nervous people about picking up swarms. I realized that fearful people kill bees, which compelled me to start educating people about their magic and inherent value. I’ve done many cutouts that qualify as rescues to prevent colonies from being harmed.

All through my bee life I’ve felt a deep connection with them. Because I started with bees before they came into fashion, there were very few places to learn how to care for bees the way I felt drawn to do it, cleanly, in ways that match how wild bees live. I spent the first half dozen years asking the bees to tell me how to care for them. At first that was just a thought, of course, wondering what they really want. And then one morning I suddenly “knew” something about bees that I hadn’t the day before.

And that continued. I believe I was being educated by the bees and I took detailed notes each morning as they explained about the nature of bees and how they live in our shared world. My book, “Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World,” evolved out of that.

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

JF: I am blessed by living on this beautiful farm my husband and I are stewards to. We are organic, biodynamic, and quite rural so overall my bees are fairly safe here, though we have had three times when someone sprayed poison within my bees’ range and those hives died horrible deaths. This really disturbs me because we are not even close to big agriculture or urban areas, yet still the bees suffer from chemical exposure. It’s heartbreaking.

Which is why I wrote my book, with the hope that many thousands of people take up the call for protecting all of Nature, and it spreads to millions of people who do whatever it takes to keep our environment clean and natural. To that end I write, speak, teach and pray that all life is honored and respected, and I try to get that out as many ways as I can imagine.

KB: What are you working on right now?

JF: Right now my bee-buddy Susan Chernak McElroy (author of the NYTimes bestseller “Animals as Teachers and Healers”) and I are working on our new site, www.PreservationBeekeeping.com, and are taking our bee work to more natural hives. She’s weaving straw skeps and I’m hiving bees in trees rather than normal wooden box hives. We’re stepping away from beekeeping as a way to access honey and moving more toward providing bee homes that don’t require human interference.

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

JF: As I write this, it’s mid-winter here on the farm. A few days ago I was up in the garden checking on the bees and, as is normal, found a few dead-looking bees at the front entrance with their tongues hanging out, and I found a bee who still had her tongue in her mouth. Just in case she might still be alive and chilled, I took off my glove and carried her in my closed hand, thinking I’d warm her up when I got back to the house. But as is usual for me, I did a few other quick tasks here and there and ended up in the cow barn. I’d become so used to carrying the frozen bee that I’d forgotten she was there and was surprised to feel a little tickle on my palm. Yes! She was alive and even though my hands were cold, my body heat was warm enough to rouse her. A short walk back to the bee house and I placed her at the entrance. With a perky saunter, she scooted back into the hive.

I’m a self-professed member of the “every bee alive” group and though I know most beekeepers would question why I put so much effort into one bee when a hive has tens of thousands Nonetheless, I try my best to treat every bee as if she’s a unique and special bee, each worthy of care, protection and love. These individual bees were my first teachers and even now, decades later, I feel a heartfelt affinity that they each get their moment in the sun.

Alison Yahna

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Alison kissing the very first swarm that went into her sun hive. “They were so kind to land in a ‘one snip’ location… so effortless and happy.”

Kaat Byrd: How did your story with the bees begin? 

Alison Yahna: When I recall how my journey with the bees began, nearly twenty years ago, I feel again the magic and mystery of the Honeybees. Awestruck by a story that goes back thousands and thousands of years, humbled to the core to be a participant. Reminded again that a Divine Plan is unfolding, and here we are -humanity- on the cusp of a great evolutionary leap into Unity Consciousness. It is nothing less than the Birth of Mother Gaia herself into a new level of being. Who are the bees but the visible face of Mother Earth, Mother Nature? They are reaching out to us, reminding us that they have been involved in the evolution of human consciousness from the very beginning, and are still with us, now guiding us through this doorway of death and rebirth as one cycle comes to a close and the New Earth is born.

In the late 90’s I was a high school science teacher who had begun to explore shamanism. In a bid to relieve bouts of anxiety and depression I had sought the help of a therapist who was also a shamanic practitioner. Susan’s techniques were so effective and uplifting that I entered a period of study with her; learning to navigate the spiritual realms, meeting and working with ancestors, animal and plant teachers and my main guide and teacher, the Goddess Demeter.

In the last months of 1998, my guides told me they were going to prepare my body to receive a higher vibrational frequency and help me stay grounded. I was given a meditation practice in which I was specifically instructed to tone ‘HUM’, and make it sound like the buzz of bees. Several months later, accompanied by dreams of bees, contact with an 8,000 year old Minoan priestess of Delphi, and a ‘real world’ swarm of bees alighting on a cedar tree near my house, the energy which had been building within me though this practice culminated in a six hour ‘initiation experience’. As a result of this experience I began to receive downloads of information from the over-lighting spirit of the bees, worshipped in ancient European tradition as the Goddess, The Pure Mother Bee.

The information I received covered the whole gamut… revelations of ancient bee temples where priestesses attended their Divine Mother as the bees attend the Queen, and produced healing nectars from their bodies, the many levels of sacred medicine embodied in the honey and other alchemical substances of the hive, their work grounding the new frequency of energy coming from Creator into the planetary body, and that we humans (a very young species but with the god-like power of creative consciousness) were on the cusp of an evolutionary leap from individual ego-consciousness into Unity Consciousness. More than anything else, the bees told me, their purpose, medicine and work with humanity at this time is to help us make that transition.

So I came to the bees… or they came to me, through this avenue. I was not a beekeeper and had no experience with them, other than being stung as a child by the wild hives that lived in the walls of our old barns. I now lived in the inner city, and the appearance of that swarm during my initiation in April 1999 seemed like a miracle. A former-beekeeping acquaintance helped me move them into a box and I put them outside the window of my meditation room. But, honestly, the physical reality of the bees in my yard was far removed from my spiritual experiences. And those spiritual experiences were fantastic beyond words… the teachings I received were often beyond my belief as a scientist about how things work, and what is possible. (It was not until the publication of Simon Buxton’s Shamanic Way of the Bee in 2004 that I found any evidence of contemporary people who had received a similar initiation and teachings from the bees.)

Among the teachings that filled my notebooks was information about the current situation the bees struggled under. They told me they were not well, and were leaving the planet in ‘catastrophic numbers’. When I asked them why they were sick their first response was emphatic -but incomprehensible to non-beekeeper me at the time- “Stop raping the Queens! Stop killing the Queens!” (I will come back to this subject later.)

They showed me a view of earth from space surrounded by a grey fog-like envelope, I asked what it was.

They said, “ Most humans do not realize it, but you are the ‘gods’ of this planet, your thoughts CREATE! To us, at the level we perceive and work with energy your thoughts are very REAL. This ‘fog’ is made of human thought forms and it is filled with negativity. It is a greater burden for us than any physical pollution or pesticide. In the past humans revered us as Divine, and offered prayers of Love and Gratitude. Through the manifesting power of your consciousness, Divine Love is what we reflected back to you! Now when people think of us, beyond just the attitude of general exploitation they have towards agricultural animals, it is primarily with the fear and hatred they have for most insects, but especially those that sting. We no longer receive your love, but rather suffer under the burden of your disregard, hatred and fear.”

And later they gave me my ‘mission’…. another view of earth, this time revealing the streaming and pulsing of her energy body, her electro-magnetic body. They showed me how the ‘piko’, or naval, of this torroidal flow was at the point of Hawaii Island. Within this piko a seed of consciousness could be planted, and with all Mother Earth’s creative energy behind it, would flow out in these energy streams and cover the whole earth. They asked for a Sanctuary, a ‘Bee Temple’, on Hawaii Island. The seed planted there was to be the return to a loving, reverent and mutually beneficial relationship between humans and honeybees.

When I think back on it, I remember mostly feeling I was perhaps crazy, that I was making the whole thing up in my head, and full of self-doubt. But the pull of this magical path I had set my foot on was stronger than all of that because, guided by the bees and with the loving support of my mother, I left my teaching career, cashed in my retirement, sold my home in Oregon and in 2002 I established Artemis Smiles Honeybee Sanctuary on the Big Island (www.artemissmiles.com). The bees literally led me to the Sanctuary, a very remote and pristine 8 acre parcel of land on the South Point peninsula. With no beekeeping experience and no teachers other than the bees themselves I began to rescue wild bees that had gone into people’s houses or sheds. There was a big gap between my spiritual relationship and my physical relationship with them, however, and about a year later they told me to go work for a Queen-breeding company. I was confused, “I thought that was what was making you sick?” Their response was that if I was going to create a Sanctuary I needed to understand what was happening to them, I needed to know what the Sanctuary was a sanctuary from! They said it would be a two-year intensive education and that while I was learning I could put to practice the things they were teaching me on the spiritual level. And so I did.

I didn’t make it quite two years, but I discovered that Hawaii Island is home to the largest Queen breeding company in the world, with several smaller companies as well, producing a huge percentage of the US’s commercial Queen bees through a factory process that strips them of their relationship to the earth/environment, their relationship with their Mother, their genetic wisdom and their ability to evolve through natural selection. I participated in every step… from the artificial insemination of ‘breeders’ who are put to sleep and injected with the semen of hand-picked drones, the grafting of worker larvae into frames of plastic queen cups and their introduction into ‘cell-builder’ hives who raise 100 or more ‘Queens’ per week, year round. Of course the cell builder colonies are fed a constant diet of sugar water, fumadil (for nosema control), and artificial pollen to keep up this frenetic activity, only to have the queen cells they build removed and taken to mating yards where they are placed in tiny nuc’s with a cup of syrup and a ‘scoop’ of young bees that have been shaken from drone/support hives. The Queen cells hatch in the nuc yards and the young Queens fly out, hundreds at a time, on their mating flights. ‘Support/drone colonies’ from this same stock provide the semen. One week after mating company work crews come into the yards, catch and cage the ‘queens’ (clipped and marked upon request) and place the cages in queen banks where they are stored until it is time to be shipped off to their final destination (Israel, Canada, California…), where commercial beekeepers are re-queening their colonies.

In 2014 one single company on Hawaii Island produced more than 500,000 of these ‘pseudo-queens’ from a grand total of some sixty artificially inseminated ‘breeders’, according to a woman who worked as a grafter in the company. I understand now why the bees placed me here, the Sanctuary in the piko Hawaii, as a counter-balance to the consciousness of industrialization and this process which turns the Divine Bee into a slave, stripped of her Wisdom, her Relationships, her Sovereignty.

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The ‘kitchen hive’ with a mural of one of Alison’s Queens and her attendants on the wall below. The bees fly in and out the window.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

AY: The goal of my Sanctuary and work with the bees is the restoration of a loving, reverent and mutually beneficial relationship between bees and humans. Over the years I have realized that the greatest challenge the bees face is the human disconnection from the flows, laws and cycles of nature. The hubris of man; the idea that we have the intelligence to ‘manage’ the bee, bend and modify her behaviors, scientifically ’build a better bee’ (as one news article put it), force her to produce according to our economic models and goals – is destroying the bees. For all our scientific knowledge of them we completely fail to comprehend their WISDOM. The lack of wisdom in our current relationship with bees mirrors our relationship to nature and the whole community of life on earth.

In my beekeeping practices and educational work I approach the bees as the Teachers, as the embodiment of the Wisdom of Nature, a species that has survived and made the earth abundant for tens of millions of years. I understand that the genetic wisdom the bees carry is a treasure beyond measure and that, through supporting their natural form, their natural means of reproduction, their uninterrupted, unmanaged and often ‘unharvested’ life processes – by removing all my own human mental and physical constructs and impositions, by giving them radical freedom, they can teach me how to ‘keep’ them.

The shift from ‘knowledge’ to ‘wisdom’ is one that that we humans must make in our approach towards all of Nature. To be in loving respectful relationship with the other species on the planet. All over the world we see cultures, indigenous people who maintain deep spiritual and family relationships with key plant and animal species. Be it Hawaiian Kalo, the Masaai Cow, the Salmon, Reindeer or the Cedar Tree, it is honored with great reverence through ceremony and ritual, whereby it ‘partakes’ of the special quality of love it receives from human consciousness. Within the relationship is a reciprocity of sacred love, love that takes physical form and is gifted from one species to another, that binds humanity to the web of Life. I believe the renaissance in natural and small scale/backyard beekeeping is the means by which many people will begin this process of reconnecting with Mother Nature, and remembering our place in it. She is a creature of Paradise, and she can lead us back to the Garden.

Ultimately I see my work as emptying myself of ‘learned’ ideas about the bees and then being free of attachment enough to listen to them. They want to work with us on the higher levels of energy frequency….. the pre-manifest quantum field, as noted physicist and beekeeper Barbara Shipman describes it, where we can use the power of our creative consciousness to restore the Queen to her Divine Throne. The bees are spiritual partners and guides for humanity, but they can only reflect to us what we ‘god-beings’ give them to work with.

 

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

AY: Hawaii is a tropical environment and the bees are active all year round. The ‘wild’ land races of bees that have evolved here had adapted to the many varied microclimates of Hawaii Island, from hot dry coastal plains to high elevation forests. The physical and temperamental differences of bees from these varied environments was notable. It is interesting to note that even in this tiny area (an island about the size of Connecticut) there was tremendous genetic diversity among the estimated one million wild colonies.

The current situation is much different. The introduction of Nosema Cerranae, Varroa Mite and the Small Hive Beetle between 2006 and 2010 have reduced wild colonies by over 95%. Managed colonies were devastated initially, and there was a twofold response. Commercial beekeepers/Queen-breeders responded with treatments, poisons and more intensive manipulation such as replacing queens every four to six months. Some companies have been successful in maintaining and even expanding their operations this way. The other response was the evolution of a number of mostly new, small-scale/backyard beekeepers on the Island who have adopted a natural beekeeping approach and are allowing their bees to adapt through natural selection.

23KB: What threatens your bees?

AY: With wild colonies extremely rare, and the commercial demand for Queens intensifying, the Queen breeders are expanding their yards and moving into more remote areas such as my district, Ka’u. This is a concern, as I have maintained a small number of treatment free ‘survivor’ colonies, a genetic bank of bees originating from the wild colonies I rescued 15 years ago. From these survivor colonies many dozens of swarms have gone back into the wild from my yards, but they are faced with annual fluxes of beetles. mites and nosema from migratory commercial beekeepers, and not many survive.

So the main threat to bees here is the loss of genetic traits and diversity due to mechanized industrial style ‘queen’ production, and other large, migratory commercial operations. Raised on sugar syrup and artificial ‘bee bread’, industrial ‘pseudo queens’ have lost the inherent wisdom of the bee; the intimate relationship with the four square miles whose nectar she sips, the life of the land. And she has lost her sense of Self as a super-organism, her immunity, and this is related to the loss of relationship between the Queen and her genetic daughters and sons. Pseudo-queens are moved into different hives numerous times throughout their development, and a queen raised in tropical Hawaii will likely end up in temperate North America. They are bred to start pumping out eggs no matter what their environment looks like, they are not expected or bred to live longer than a year, they are not expected to reproduce. These poor creatures are no longer truly Honey Bees, but rather ‘man-made industrial slaves’. Because just one of the several Queen operations here on Hawaii Island provides the mainland with 25-30% of its Queens annually, I believe the industry is a serious threat to bees on the mainland as well.

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Alison weaving a sun hive made from local grasses and locally harvested wood.

KB: What do you believe is the key element for a healthy and strong apiary?

AY: I want to address, first of all, ‘making friends with death’. Ten years have passed since the arrival of parasites and disease that wiped out our island bees, and the corresponding jump in consciousness experienced by islanders as a result has been astounding. Bee Guardians awoke and heard the call! I would say the ‘grey fog’ of negative consciousness around Gaia that the bees felt in 1999 has been pierced and illuminated by powerful rays of love and light as a direct result of the honeybee crisis. We humans have a ways to go, but when we are at one with Nature we accept that the harvest, the drought and the die-off are built into the laws of Nature. It is the balance, the Law. Birth and Death emerge from the same Holy Door, the Ouroboros eats its own tail. We are not meant, with our feeble human intelligence, to ‘fix’ the bees so that they may continue to labor for us in the killing fields. Rather they are leading us, by necessity, into a deeper intelligence, into renewing a harmonic relationship with Life, remembering how to lovingly receive from our Abundant Loving Fertile Beautiful Mother Earth. Bee Guardians are listening to what bees need to thrive in the long run, and when they thrive we know the whole ecosystem is thriving. The bees die to send us a message and teach us a new way of relating with them, with our food, with nature. For example we must release our feelings of negativity and our ‘warlike’ attitude to pests and diseases.

The bees surprised me, as I was in despair about my collapsing colonies, flooded with SHB. “The beetles and mites are not our enemies! They are freeing us. They are liberating us from these current ‘working’ conditions.” I had to make peace with the fact my bees didn’t want to be ‘treated’ for mites, they wanted me to let those colonies go who couldn’t manage them, and release their life/species energy to evolution. Their response to such questions was “The Queen has fallen!” “Raise up the Queen, raise your own inner Queen so that we may once again reflect your Divinity to you!”

I watched most of my sixty colonies perish and ultimately I made friends with death… evolution can only happen this way! A primary lesson for me, in my quest to allow the bees ‘sovereign freedom’ and put myself in the place of student/observer, rather than ‘managing bee-savior’, -was to release even the mental construct that I wanted my colonies to LIVE and not die! To end the feeling of ‘Life = Good, Death = Bad’.

To be able to fully say to them ‘you do what you need to do, I love you!’

If we can get silent enough before them, quiet our desires and judgements, they can tell us exactly what they want and need. And we may find that they are actually saving us! Definitely they have been successful in getting our attention.

That said, I believe the bees are working with each of us as they see fit, and things that work for one beekeeper in one region will not work for another. But for long term survival of the Honeybee we must support her return to sovereignty over her reproduction and genetics. We must allow our bees to swarm and make natural queens who are naturally mated. Other natural beekeeping practices include letting bees make their own comb, harvesting only excess honey/bee bread, keeping combs clean and removing old brood comb. Small is beautiful: small yards with fewer hives, smaller hives who are not spending all their energy filling supers with ‘your’ honey! Let them re-establish their relationship to the land, adapt through natural selection the traits they need for that place, let the ones that don’t make it go with love and gratitude…

And because our consciousness is so powerful, feed them with your highest vision of the New Earth, of the Divine Mother Bee. Raise your own inner Queen!

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KB: What are you working on right now?

AY: One of the great teachings I have received from the bees is some understanding of Sacred Geometry: that certain frequencies and harmonics, which manifest as sound, light and matter in this dimension, are conducive to the flow and evolution of life. Others suppress it. The bees expressed that the cuboid shape of the modern hive suppresses their vitality, and that they wanted a round or ovoid shaped space. I am excited to finally be producing a beautiful round hive developed in Germany. It has removable wooden frames and support board for an egg-shaped woven basket. Mathematically, the cuboid shape reflects ‘stasis/stability’. Energetically it is mineral/earth. The ovoid SunHive, in contrast, is a shape in which the evolution of the bees is supported. I received a grant to produce ten ‘SunHives’ for my sanctuary, and am currently learning to work with this new design and observing the behavior and health of these colonies.

I am using a local grass, not traditional rye straw, and a type of locally harvested tropical cedar the bees indicated they liked. The practice of gathering the materials and hours of weaving have provided time to listen to the bees and deeply understand the significance of this biodymanic shape, mathematically the formula of ‘potential’, the hive takes on the energy of the Cosmic Egg, the Cosmic Queen-Cell. Placed high (8-16’ off the ground), I sense that they are literally lifting up that “fallen Queen”, and within the ‘ovum mysterium’ is gestating the Great Queen. I remember Her… Artemis, Isis, Demeter “the Pure Mother Bee”, Bhramari Devi. She is the Bee who remembers her original Divine Blueprint!

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

AY: The Aloha ‘Aina movement in Hawaii is a fantastic story that began with the ‘Fallen Queen’ Liliuokalani’s people declaring that they would never sign papers agreeing to the annexation of their Nation to the U.S. “We will never sign the papers of extortion and greed. We will be satisfied eating the magical stones of our land.” In 2015, in response to attempted construction of a Thirty Meter Telescope on the peak of their most Sacred Temple, Mauna A Wakea, thousands of Hawaiians gathered to protect the Mountain, the source of Wai Ola, the Water of Life, that nourishes our whole planet. We know the same is happening at Standing Rock, and that more than 700 indigenous nations have come together there to protect the Sacred, to protect that which nourishes us, the ‘aina. There is an unstoppable stream of Life Energy flooding the planet, we who feel it are standing like a mountain if we must, flowing like a river when we need to, but secure in the knowledge that in this way there is Life for us and for all our relations. There is no life force behind the ‘powers that be’, only the frenetic winding down of the machine.

My journey as a ‘bee shaman’ of mostly European ancestry has been one of reconnecting to the Sacred in my own indigenous tradition, to enter again into a loving, living relationship with the community of Life. The Bee guardians, the guardians of the Salmon, the Waters, the Redwoods, the Seeds…. we are all in this together. I am inspired by all of us, each in our own way, who are reconnecting to Nature and working to protect her. The bees showed me almost twenty years ago, in that view of the planet from space, how the seed of a new relationship between humans and bees could be sown in this piko, Hawaii, and flow throughout the whole envelope of negative human consciousness surrounding the planet. I saw the seeds taking root around the Earth and Bee Sanctuaries appearing everywhere. These visions I have seen come to pass.

The bee-oracle speaks of what is yet to come:

Bee Sanctuaries are anchor points for the bees to conduct Source energy into the Earth’s ‘dragon lines’ (her energy body), in a Sacred Marriage of Heaven and Earth. From this union will come the New Earth, a new level of consciousness, of Gaia herself. Enveloped within Earth’s consciousness field (like bees within that emanated by the queen) humans will become the neural network or ‘heart/mind’ within the enveloping consciousness of Gaia. We will experience unity consciousness, the bees tell us, similar to what they experience within the colony. A level of shared consciousness, including and transcending the individual ego, in which our human experience will be very bee-like. Bee Guardians can assist by becoming aware of the ley (dragon) lines in the area where hives are placed, for on sacred sites and dragon lines there is direct connection to the consciousness of Mother Earth. By creating ‘power places’, or placing hives on already existing energy points we can assist the bees in the great work they are doing, helping humanity move from individual ego to unity consciousness.

22KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

AY: Anyone who works with the bees as a guardian, in loving and receptive relationship will soon have their own fantastic stories, that may or may not be understood or believed by those not a part of this magical realm…

I would like to share a little about swarms and a swarm story. I had gathered a dozen or so wild ‘rescue’ colonies when I went to work for the Queen Company. I was ‘undercover’ and learning all I could, while quietly communing with the bees as I worked. I learned commercial beekeeping practices for the first time; the ways in which bees are domesticated, managed and ‘molded’ – that seemed to be adopted by pretty much everyone, commercial or hobbyist. One of those ideas is that swarming must be suppressed. For example, check out “Beekeeping for Dummies” at the local library, turn to the section on “Problems” and you will find the first chapter deals with the ‘problem’ of swarming, with advice and methods on how to prevent it: cut out Queen cells, super the hive, clip the Queen’s wings or put a Queen excluder on the entrance…. under this influence I had unconsciously adopted a negative feeling towards swarming as well as the feeling of “I want as much honey as I can get”.

But one day as I found myself at home in my Sanctuary, walking among the wild hives, I received a great revelation. The bees wanted to swarm, they needed to swarm, and the powerful consciousness of their human keepers was set against it, had been set against the very means by which bees reproduce and infuse their species with new life and vitality! No wonder the bees were “dying”, we kept ‘telling them’ NOT to reproduce! Of course they can’t go through any natural selection process if they don’t swarm, and I understood that, but I had the sense that the powerful force of the collective ‘beekeeper mind’ was suppressing their life force on an energetic level as well. I was holding my own bees back! With this revelation I consciously released all my negative feelings about swarms and told my bees “You are free! Do your thing! I will celebrate it!”

Within an hour two swarms took off, and the next day several more. More than half my colonies swarmed within a few days. It was very clear to me that by mentally ‘allowing’ my bees to swarm I had lifted something from them that had been suppressing their natural life processes. I began to advocate for swarming and natural selection many years ago. But it was only a few years ago that I had an even more profound experience.

I was sitting with a SunHive when it began to swarm, the bees pouring out and lifting up into the air, filling the sky with their bodies. As I looked upward I saw that their movements were not random but very clearly along pathways with open centers, creating some ‘flower of life’-type three dimensional geometric form. As more and more bees rose above me the form expanded until it was a hundred feet high and a couple hundred feet wide. They pattern remained the same, expanding and then slowly tightening like a net. The queen settled on a low branch right near my shoulder and the geometric form condensed and condensed – without losing any of its clearly demarcated three dimensional flight lines and empty spaces, until the cluster was formed around her and on me.

As I was standing in the center of this loud humming formation and the queen settled so close to me, I experienced feeling this pattern resonating through my cells and consciousness – a powerful ‘re-setting’ of my body’s energy field. I understood that when the bees leave the hive, their physical body, in a swarm they are dying to the physical and as pure spirit are absorbing and re-setting themselves in the Divine Harmonic, the ‘Language of Life’, the ‘Fingerprint of God’. This is how they are reborn, shed the dis-harmonic energies and experiences of the recent past and ‘re-set’ themselves to mirror the Divine Pattern we call Sacred Geometry. It was a powerful revelation that swarming is not just important as part of the reproductive process of the colony, but actually was cleansing dis-harmonic memories and experiences, and rebooting them with an infusion of the energies and harmonics of Life Energy. The future of the bees, and the destiny of Gaia, is to be free of the false matrix of the techno-industrial model. The Beeing that is the Queen, on so many levels, informing (in forming) Biological Life, must be Free and Sovereign in Her destiny.

222KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

AY: As Bee Guardians we are entering a relationship with a Wise and Sacred Bee-ing. You will get advice from every current and former beekeeper you encounter, all certain that theirs is the only best right way! Remember that its not about how much honey your bees produce, or how many colonies survive a given winter that make you ‘successful’. You will lose some hives even if you do everything right, you might lose all your hives. Don’t take it personally. We are in it for the long haul… we are learning what we can do to support the long term health and vitality -of the bees and of the earth. Free your mind from expectations and ‘desires’ until you can sit with the bees in silence and hear Her voice sweetly humming the way to Paradise.

Blessed Bee, Honey in the Heart.

Bee Charmer

KAAT BYRD: How did your story with the bees begin?

BEE CHARMER: Ever since I was a child I had a connection with bees. My wife always encouraged me to work with them. When CCD happened I was drawn even more. We decided it was no longer OK to just sit around and do nothing. We sold everything and moved to what I call the bee capitol of the world (big island Hawaii) to start a non-profit dedicated to making bees sustainable.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

BC: It is ever changing. At first I just wanted get to the bottom of the cause of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). I got a job in commercial bee keeping. When I saw how bees where being treated, the goal changed! I wanted to help commercial bee keeping to see the damage they are causing in the bee world. When I realized they didn’t care, my goal changed again. I have since decided to continue to just let the bees guide me and work as hard as I can for them.

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

BC: This place is so amazing for bees. For the most part there is a ban on GMO. Food sources everywhere and year round perfect temperature! It rains a little too much but it’s ok.

KB: What threatens your (work with the) bees and how do you work with these threats?

BC: Unfortunately after I released the video I took of commercial bee keeping and what they do to bees, I received a death threat. That shook me up a bit and almost made me reconsider my approach. After speaking to my wife, I decided there is no threat and never will be! I will not quietly go about this. The world needs to know.

KB: What do you believe is the key element for a healthy and strong apiary?

BC: Quality bee people. Healthy clean water source for the bees.

KB: What are you working on right now?

BC: Next major study we are doing at Gentle Hive Bee Foundation is the effects of structured water (crystalblueent.com) on the hives.

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

BC: I’m always inspired by the bees. Mostly just amazed at all they do and are responsible for. I am blessed to also know many amazing Melissae like Jen Bee, Laura Bee, and so many more. The most amazing bee people I know are women and I look up to them very much!

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

BC: I was removing a killer bee hive from a tree in Arizona. It was about 15 feet up in the tree. The ladder slipped and I fell face first into the hive and of course I wasn’t wearing any protection. Well, let’s just say my own daughter didn’t recognize me.

KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

BC: Always listen to your intuition. The bees will tell you what they need.

John Vendy

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John discussing top-bar hive with students. COPYRIGHT GRANT DEMPSTER 2015

KAAT BYRD: How did your story with the bees begin?

JOHN VENDY: My family had a friend who kept bees. When I was around eight years old I had a mouth ulcer that wouldn’t heal with the “normal” treatment. Hugh, the beekeeper, said he had just the cure and took me outside, put a veil over my head and took me to his apiary. The hive he opened was my first view into the magical world of the honeybee. I was instantly fascinated with these beautiful, busy creatures who seemed to move with such self-assured purpose. Hugh gathered a small ball of propolis and, all too soon for me, closed the hive. He told me to put the propolis on the sore area of my mouth and explained how it was made by the bees. Although it stung a bit, the ulcer had healed within a few days and I was hooked on bees (although it took another 40 years before life allowed me to take the plunge into beekeeping).

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

JV: The reason that I do talks about bees and offer training courses in Natural Beekeeping (see http://topbarbeehive.co.uk/) is to encourage others to make the first step into the world of the honeybee. I’d love to see beekeeping back where it was about 400 years ago – hives easily made from local, sustainably sourced materials, bees living naturally in the environment and local knowledge passed freely between beekeepers enabling them to maintain the local population and sustainably harvest hive products without harm to the bees. I feel that the modern top-bar hive fills this requirement.

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John (left) teaching making top-bars during the hive building day.

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

JV: I live in a fairly rural area of North-West England, on top of a hill exposed to winds.

Local fields are a desert for bees, just grass or “improved pasture” as the farmers describe it. Hedgerows are often cut before they have finished flowering. Working with a friend, we propagated hundreds of “bee-friendly” plants and gave them away to anyone local who was willing to plant them. The result is a reasonable amount of forage in the gardens in the village and an interest generated in bee-welfare. We still have a stall at local fairs offering information about bees of all sorts and beekeeping.

The local high wind speeds means that hive roofs are always strapped down and prevailing winds must always be checked when positioning a hive. I also try to locate hives in the lee of a hedgerow.

KB: What threatens your (work with the) bees and how do you work with these threats?

JV: Climate change and pesticides. I try to live as “green” a life as possible myself and attempt to persuade others to do likewise whenever I can. I write an occasional article for a local magazine about either bees or environmental issues.

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John discussing bee observations at the hive entrance.

KB: What do you believe is the key element for a healthy and strong apiary?

JV: Plenty of forage that has not been contaminated with pesticide/fungicides.

KB: What are you working on right now?

JV: I’m about to start preparing for talks at The Bee Centre (http://www.thebeecentre.org/), a new initiative by some new friends to promote bees, located in North-West England.

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Home apiary, four top-bar hive, one Warre People’s Hive.

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

JV: Prof. Tom Seeley is always an inspiration. His work with swarms and description of bait-hives has made my life so much easier!

I also have great admiration for Prof. Dave Goulson founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I believe bumblebees and solitary bees (along with other pollinating insects) are at far greater risk than honeybees as no-one manages them.

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

JV: Having placed bait-hives for a couple of years with no success, I was tempted not to bother putting them out after a particularly bad winter when all local beekeepers had lost their bees. Despite having convinced myself there was no chance of a swarm, I put just one bait-hive on my shed roof. A week later I was amazed to hear and then see a swarm moving in – what a fantastic experience! I promptly moved the beEs into a full-sized top-bar hive and replaced the bait-hive on the roof. Two weeks later, another prime swarm arrived, and from a different direction! Moral of the story, NEVER assume there are no bees in your neighbourhood.

KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

JV: Listen to as many experienced beekeepers as you can find, read bee-books, then start to really learn from the bees themselves!

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Checking a hive at an out-apiary.

Tom Hebert

Tom Hebert is originally from Wisconsin but has lived and done beekeeping in Honduras for the past 25 years. He uses mainly top bar hives to manage the ornery Africanized bees he has to deal with there. His diverse range of beekeeping experiences also goes from teaching top bar hive beekeeping in Honduras and Jamaica to having worked with a commercial apiary of 2,000 Langstroth hives in Wisconsin.

Hebert writes two beekeeping blogs, “Musings on Beekeeping” in English and “Reflexiones Sobre Apicultura” in Spanish. He’s also on Facebook.

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Kaat Byrd: How did your story with the bees begin?

Tom Hebert: My beekeeping journey started when I joined Peace Corps after I finished the university. The organization offered me a position in Honduras with their beekeeping program. Honduras was exactly what I wanted—beekeeping not really.

At that time, I thought of Peace Corps as just a way to really learn Spanish. The two-year stint would also help me get familiar with the culture and people that I wanted to focus on when I would finally use the print journalism and Latin American Studies majors I had studied. Finally, I would be doing some good for the world.

If bees would get me to Honduras, then so be it.

Before this, my only experience with bees was as a young boy growing up in central Wisconsin. And it wasn’t actually with “beekeeping.” My brothers, sister and I would play on the lawn and a bumble bee would start to buzz around our heads. We would all “freeze” and not move until it went on its way.

The next closest thing to beekeeping was having peanut butter and honey sandwiches. This was our main afterschool snack when we got home. There always seemed to be a jar or bear of honey in the cupboard, half crystalized. But there is nothing better than combining it with peanut butter when you come home hungry and want something immediately.

So, Peace Corps accepted me to their Honduran beekeeping program, based more on my knowing some Spanish and having some agriculture experience (I grew up in rural Wisconsin and would work on my uncle’s dairy farm during the summer). Most of my fellow beekeeping volunteers, in fact, were what we called generalists. This meant no specific beekeeping experience. Peace Corps gave us extensive training however.

But life always throws a wrench into your plans and messes everything up—sometimes for the better. Honduras helped me to find the love of my life—my wife Sofia. It gave me a family—her three children. It also helped me to find another love—beekeeping. All three were totally unexpected. My journalistic aspirations got set off to the side.

These little hard-working insects earned a place in my heart, but also the idea of the benefits they could bring to people. This included myself. There is great need for Hondurans to improve their incomes and thus their lives. Beekeeping has this ability for many of them.

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Hebert, on the right, during a beekeeping workshop in 1991 for other Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?

TH: Beekeeping is an economic activity for me. The idea is that the bees provide me with at least a supplemental income. As I mentioned earlier, the economic situation of Honduras is not good. Even a full time job often leaves one budgeting their money extra carefully just to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, I was never able to make the leap into doing beekeeping full time. I took a job as the fifth and sixth grade teacher in the local English-Spanish bilingual school. A paycheck is there at the end of every month.

Beekeeping became a secondary activity, but it remains first as far as passion goes. The bee work gets done on weekends, vacation days and after classes.

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

TH: The environment in terms of climate and geography does not really cause extreme challenges. Being in a tropical area, there really are no major concerns during the dearth period. Large strong established hives can usually survive without supplemental feeding (although they may come into the new season on the small size). There always seems to be at least a bit of something blooming. The climate does not have the extremes that notably affect the hives of northern beekeepers.

My work is shaped more by the economic environment of Honduras—the economic challenges that one faces. Honduras is not a rich country. Well-paying jobs are few and far between. A person usually lives from pay check to pay check (if you’re lucky enough to have steady work.) There never seems to be extra money, especially to invest in something like beekeeping. Buying the equipment is expensive.

Over the years as a Peace Corps volunteer the idea kept growing about staying in Honduras with my wife and becoming a full-time beekeeper. She agreed with me. Going back to the States with her and the children would always be an open option if things wouldn’t work out in Honduras.

But when it came time to leave Peace Corps and set out on my own, the reality really set in. I learned firsthand about the situation of the people I had been working with during Peace Corps. How could I support my family with beekeeping if I didn’t really have the resources to invest in the needed equipment?

I wanted to start with the best system, which meant for me at that time movable-frame Langstroth boxes. The truth, however, was that Langstroth hives were simply too expensive.

I couldn’t justify spending that much money when I had more immediate concerns of putting food on the table and paying for school expenses. And I certainly couldn’t justify spending money on all the extras that go with these hives so the bees could be managed as they were intended.

I was now put in the very shoes of the people I had been helping as a volunteer.

So, the obvious alternative was to put into practice one of the things I had been promoting—the top bar hive. It’s a simple economic system for managing bees. It can be used as a stepping stone to eventually move into Langstroth hives or it can turn out to be your hive of choice.

I ended up making much of my own equipment to make things even more affordable, including my smoker, wax foundation and even my veils. My high school shop class in carpentry proved to be very useful.

I became a frugal beekeeper, but out of necessity.

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Some of Hebert’s simple top bar hives located on a coffee farm in the mountains of Honduras. These were made from recycled wood.

This whole situation happened again later when I worked for several years with a commercial beekeeper back in the States. It was seasonal work—the seven months during the bee season. The idea was to make enough money to live on while in Wisconsin, send some back home to support the family during those same months, and to also save enough for the months I would be back in Honduras.

There I was, working with 2,000 hives—that belonged to someone else. I wanted some of my own, just to putter around with on the weekend. Maybe I could even make a bit of extra money.

But I was back in that same post-Peace Corps situation. I couldn’t justify spending a lot of money on expensive Langstroth equipment. There were other priorities for my salary.

So, I set up a dozen top bar hives using free material.

I have nothing against Langstroth hives. They are designed to produce honey in an effective way. It is the best design for migratory beekeeping and for pollination of crops. I’ve worked plenty with them, both in Honduras and in Wisconsin.

But the truth is that there needs be an alternative—not only for people in developing countries, but also for people in the United States.

Over all these years I’ve come to believe in top bar hives and all the benefits they possess. And those beliefs have just grown stronger over the last 25 years. Langstroth hives may be the hives of choice for most people, but top bar hives definitely have their place in the beekeeping world.

KB: What threatens your (work with the) bees and how do you work with these threats?

TH: The biggest threat, or maybe “challenge” is a better word, is having to work with Africanized bees. Everything has been totally Africanized in Honduras since the 1980’s. They are what we have to work with so I had to find the ways to deal with them and take advantage of them.

I manage them the way I get them, which is usually by catching them with swarm traps that I hang in trees. I haven’t been able to invest time into breeding them for more docile traits—the time commitments with my teaching job doesn’t allow it. I don’t do requeening either. There really are no commercial queen breeders here. These are pure Africanized bees as nature is evolving them.

So, I’ve had to learn how to manage them; learn when I can do intensive work or when I shouldn’t even touch them.

Their temperament is very variable. Sometimes you can work with them without too many difficulties, and other times you don’t even want to think about touching them. They can get very defensive, especially during the dearth period on a cloudy day.

The upside is that they can produce very acceptable quantities of honey. They are also very hygienic and resistant to disease—this is not a worry for me.

It’s a love-hate situation. I take the good with the bad.

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Hebert’s wife Sofia with a comb from one of their top bar hives of Africanized bees.

KB: What do you believe is the key element for a healthy and strong apiary?

TH: Natural beekeeping, as much as possible anyways. I do it de facto. I don’t usually have the money to spend on expensive mite treatments nor do I need to spend it.

I start most my hives by catching swarms. I set up the hives in a good home (as in the boxes) and in a good location. I keep an eye on them and do as much management as possible (my job as a teacher often limits this).

Basically, it is a very hands-off style of beekeeping. My monetary investment is small. My management is minimal. The bees give what they want in terms of honey. It is basically pure profit. It is style that works for me and my lifestyle at this moment. It’s a secondary activity for me (but again, first in passion).

This means the bee hives that are the strongest survive year after year. The weak hives don’t. Each year I should have more hives with good survivability characteristics.

Some people may criticize me for not putting in the extra effort to keep a hive alive. Here in Honduras, however, there is an abundance of wild hives and swarms. I don’t see bees being threatened. It’s a characteristic of the Africanized bees. These wild colonies are more of a nuisance. I don’t lose sleep over losing a hive every now and then.

And I also contribute to the wild population when my own hives swarm.

KB: What are you working on right now?

TH: I mentioned earlier that I studied print journalism in the university. At that time, I wanted to work for a newspaper or magazine. Even though this idea got set off to the side when I went to Honduras with Peace Corps, this desire to write has always stayed there in the back of my head.

I finally made a commitment to myself several years ago to seriously begin writing again. I started a blog, “Musings on Beekeeping,” as the vessel for sharing my thoughts. Bees are my passion. What better topic to write about than your passion. I’ve had a wide variety of beekeeping experiences and the teacher in me wanted to get them out to other beekeepers.

I also have a companion blog in Spanish, “Reflexiones Sobre Apicultura.” I try to share my experiences as much with the English-speaking world as the Spanish-speaking world where I now live.

I’ve written a couple small books about beekeeping and have ideas for several others. I want to take my blog to the next level so I can offer these to beekeepers.

My actual beekeeping is at a level that I’m not thinking about changing. About 75 hives is a good number for me.

However, I would like to venture into the world of keeping stingless bees. There are a large variety of native stingless bees in Honduras. It’s a tradition that goes back to the time of the Mayas. They would keep one variety in log hives and use the fermented honey in their rituals.

It is also a tradition that has been disappearing. But in the last couple years I’ve begun to see different organizations and people in Mexico and Central America that have been promoting stingless bees and trying to revitalized this aspect of beekeeping.

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

TH: One thing that has been inspiring me is the ability to teach different aspects of beekeeping in Jamaica as a volunteer  with Partner of the America’s Farmer to Farmer program. I was contacted by Yerba Buena Farms, located on the north coast of the island. They had the desire to bring a more natural beekeeping to Jamaica using top bar hives. I went as their first Farmer to Farmer volunteer and have now made four trips to the island, spending the month of July when I have vacation from my school job.

It has been another opportunity for the teacher in me to share my passion for beekeeping. The topics for the workshops have been really varied: top bar hive management, top bar hive construction, pollen traps for tbhs, simple cement molds for making wax foundation, homemade smokers, bookkeeping for beekeepers, and experimenting with alternative construction materials for tbh boxes. During my last visit, I was able to put all these together in an exhibit for Jamaica’s island-wide agricultural show.

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Hebert with Jamaican beekeepers in a workshop to make pollen traps for top bar hives.

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

TH: Something that comes to mind is from a recent post on my blog about bees in my town’s cemetery. I’ve been required to do beekeeping several times in the cemetery.

The graves in the cemetery are usually above-ground mausoleums. As they get old they tend to crack. This is especially the case with the entrance plugs. This gives the bees a chance to enter and establish their colony.

Occasionally you will find a colony of Africanized bees but usually it’s the small stingless bees that are native to Honduras. If you look carefully, it’s easy to find their entrance tubes sticking out of cracks.

It’s the Africanized bees that usually cause the problems and require my services.

Many a year ago, a guy, who had a bit too much to drink, decided he wanted to rob some honey from a colony in one of the mausoleums in the town cemetery. This tomb had to be more than 50 years old. A colony of Africanized bees had moved into it. He pulled down the entrance plug of this old mausoleum, which had cracked all the way around, but only got all stung up before high tailing it out of the cemetery. He left empty handed.

I was contacted to see if I could help. The colony had been causing problems anyways by stinging people when they would go to clean around the graves. Now it was opened.

It was a big colony and the first comb was right in the entrance of the grave, forming a wall of bees and wax that went from the top to the bottom. It was a bit bigger than two deep frames in size. There were about five of these before I got to the wooden casket. Some smaller combs continued over that.

Two Langstroth boxes got filled with brood comb and bees. This old comb eventually got weeded out as the bees filled frames with new comb. The honey got dumped.

It was unnerving for me to go into a grave like this. But at the same time a beekeeper may occasionally be required to do this type of community service—in a place like Honduras anyways.

On a recent visit to the cemetery I found another mausoleum colony. I don’t think I will go looking for the family of this newest one in order to ask them if I can remove it. But I suspect, if they come looking for me, I’ll say yes.

You can read some other stories about my beekeeping adventures in a cemetery on my blog.

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Removing a colony that took up residence in the empty space of a mausoleum in the town cemetery.

KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

TH: Don’t get locked into the idea that there is only one way to do beekeeping. When seeking advice, some beekeepers can get very adamant about there being only one acceptable method for managing bees. They’ll say it’s the only way to do beekeeping.

Keep an open mind. The hive options and management styles vary greatly. Research the alternatives and then do what is best for you and for the bees. There is no one right system to use. Each has their pros and cons. Each new beekeeper needs to look at his or her situation and decide what to use and what to do.

For example, top bar hives are generally recommended for more natural beekeeping but Langstroth hives also can be managed more naturally by changing some of the normal practices used with them. Top bar hives are much more economical to begin with but Langstroth hives usually earn you more money in the end.

I’m a big believer in finding functional alternatives since that was what I had to do to start beekeeping.

But always try to keep the health of the bees at the center of what you do. They are going to make you honey or pollinate your crops, not the boxes and other equipment.

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Lady Spirit Moon

KAAT BYRD: How did your story with the bees begin?

LADY CERELLI: I had a flashback in 2003 of a 40-year suppressed memory and was in the VA hospital for a week. The whole scenario changed my life. I spent a year in counseling for severe PTSD and the next 10 years healing from childhood traumas and more military sexual assault memories that had also been suppressed. After that year of counseling, I moved further back and higher up in the Appalachian Mountains of Northwestern North Carolina.

I believe in and walk the Red Road. When you want to change your life one has to let go of the old one for a new one to enter. I closed my fiber studio and gave away everything. I have given away half of a house full of items. It is believed that all will come back in a better state, if you wish it. And it did.

In the meantime I came across a flyer about a bee school. Of the 1,000-book library I had given away, I discovered I had kept 2 things: my herbal box containing information from when I had an herb farm and did clinical before I ever heard of the word; and a 2-page document on Rudolph Steiner’s Biodynamic Beekeeping. I don’t believe in coincidences but do believe in serendipity. I attended the school and became fascinated with bees.

Right from the beginning I could not bring myself to treat my bees with any chemicals or oils or put anything in the hive the bee didn’t take through the entrance. I did feed them sugar water that first year because of a very long dearth. I learned the following spring that it caused Nosema, as there are no Lactobacilli or nutrients in sugar water. I received a lot of flak from the old timers for not treating. But they stopped asking questions when after 3 years my apiary continued to grow and I had no hive losses.

In 1999 I lost my long-term memory from impacting the truck windshield twice when it went it off the road. I had to retrain my brain to relearn skills and struggled at retrieving past information. The Nosema took me to my computer which I had to relearn for research, writing books, creating flyers, etc. I have been doing research ever since and have gotten rather good at weeding out fact from fiction.

The clincher came when I discovered Apitherapy, using hive products for healing purposes. The more I delved into their world, the more I no longer saw them as small creatures. Their abilities to heal, organize, and the hive functions democratically taught me humans could learn from them. They are so adaptable and to a degree trainable. When I saw them demonstrate the 3 traits of a sentient being – compassion, intelligence, and death rite – I was forever hooked.

There is something else here as well, Kaat. A PTSD victim does not often find something to keep their attention and it is rare to find them in a long-term relationship because of their temperament. I have been married for nearly 52 years to a very stubborn husband who refuses to leave me. And the honeybee has caught my attention through fascination and always learning from watching, reading, and, more important, from communicating with them. This has been a tremendous help in my healing from traumas as the honeybee gave me a new focus. They have become my passion and purpose; and I will be the rest of my life in service to them.

KB: What is your focus and goal as a bee guardian?
LC: My focus is their survival. Since 2010 I have been traveling internationally meeting with other beekeepers, organizations and associations, and scientists and talking about honeybees and their survival. I have learned that there are few beekeepers keeping bees from the honeybee’s perspective. Humans keep bees based on very little or no knowledge or on a mentor who treats, or they go into beekeeping for the commercialism and profit. I have found very few people keeping bees for the sake of keeping the bees for their survival. Most think they can just replace them by buying nucs or splitting the hives without regard to the hive they split or to the genetics.

I teach BEe Perspective Beekeeping based on what the honeybees have taught me. It is a method of keeping the bees by getting the ego out of the way. I do communicate with them as I do with a lot of wild animals and birds on my property. I also honor the bee for their antiquity. Someone once told me a long, long time ago, that you can hear how old the animal’s ancestry is by a certain tone in their vocal cords when they speak. I heard a recording of 10 honeybee queens announcing their arrival before hatching. I heard quacks, honks, and toots; but got chills when I heard the sound of humpback whales. The same tonal quality is in an elephant, rhino, some large cats, some gorillas, whales ….

My goal is to teach people to go back to the basic knowledge our ancestors passed down to us with regard to land stewardship. Farmers have forgotten how to touch and smell the earth and her plants. Rather, they sit up in their large farm machines digging up so many thousands of acres; a bee doesn’t have a chance of survival in such large mono-cultures. I like the idea of layering the soil so that the worms come to the surface, enriching the soil as they break down what has been laid on the earth. Farmers like to think they are feeding the world, but instead are harming the world through chemical pollution, loss of nutrition in the food and soil, harming our environment, and poisoning the water. What the world should be doing is learning how to grow food in their own indigenous environment and preserve it the times they can’t grow. This works in balance with the body as well.

BEe Healing Guild holds an annual Gathering. In 2017 I teach how to communicate with the earth through plant awareness, through our 5 senses, and with the bees. Through understanding Mother Earth’s needs, we can nurture her and still receive a cornucopia by giving back to her what she has given to us and not feed her manmade chemicals. Our society is gotten lazy with too many conveniences that actually take up our time without accomplishing much, like Facebook, digital games, and cell phones. I confess to being hooked on the cell phone, but I still talk face-to-face with people. I have sat on the porch with a cup of tea with a lot of people over the years. If my porch could talk!

KB: How does the local environment shape your work?

LC: My local environment is filled with a GMO farmer who has expanded his acreage with corn and tobacco. Local farmers also put Roundup on their fields when they plow in early spring about a month before planting their crops. My neighbor uses chemicals along their fence lines and on their gardens. Our utility companies use Rodeo that contains over 50% glyphosate. Don’t even get me started with glyphosate. I work closely with Dr. Don Huber, Emeritus Professor, Purdue University, who is the world’s foremost authority on Roundup, next to Monsanto. He travels internationally a few times a month talking about the harmful effects of Roundup.

He works with international teams of scientists and has a couple of projects involving several thousands of acres under cultivation. Yet he remains very humble. What also impressed me about him is that he is not afraid to go outside of his field to ask questions of other scientists, as he did when I spoke with him about my bees located next to a GMO field. He is my science mentor; and after working with him for 5 years, I can now present his PPT on Roundup. I did a recorded presentation in VA this past October. If the videographer can edit it, which he says he can, it will be on YouTube. It’s about an hour long. I also communicate with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, MIT, and a few other scientists, some from other countries.

When the GMO farmer expanded his crop, thereby using chemicals closer to my apiary, my bees developed EFB (European Foulbrood), which is brought on by stress. I watched a queen march across the comb without laying anything. When it got down to just a couple hundred bees and she started trembling and acting drunk, I killed her. When I heard Don in an interview with Dr. Mercola 5 years ago regarding the harmful effects of Roundup, something clicked and I called him. I researched Monsanto and went into a 6-week depression then dug into my own research for the next 2 years. I also learned that the neonicotinoids used on GMO seed coatings work together with the glyphosate in the Roundup spray.  Intuitively, I knew Roundup was the cause of my bees getting EFB and caused problems with my queen, just didn’t know how or why until I spoke with Don. I know it was Roundup because the bees were affected after each and every time within 30 days after I saw folks spraying. I did more research and created my own Lacto formula.

KB: What threatens your bees and how do you work with these threats?

LC: Three years ago I created a formula using commercially lyophilized probiotics because of my bees developing EFB from Roundup spray. I originally used an 8 strain, 30 ppb. I then intuitively went to a 10-strain after research indicated that L casei is important for healthy autoimmune functions for all animals. My bees really perked up with the additional 2 strains. I discovered by accident using an EFB test in my main apiary that the probiotic formula killed the EFB bacteria within 10 minutes. It has since proven itself 100% effective and takes about 2-4 weeks to totally cure EFB in a beehive, depending on the weather. It takes just 1 or 2 applications of the Lacto spray if you catch at the very beginning. The formula is sprayed on the comb with EFB to kill it. But then the formula also has to be fed to the bees in their sugar feed. Just like humans when the bees are sick, they don’t feel like harvesting or doing much of anything else either. If the Lactobacilli is fed to them, their immune system heals, their overall health improves, and they are better able to take care of diseases. You can actually watch it on a day-to-day basis.

Lactobacilli bacteria are crucial to the immune system of every living organism in the world, including animals, humans, and the soil. Lactobacilli bacteria protect the plant by acting as a barrier against the Clostridium botulinum in the soil, preventing it from going up into the plant. Without this protection the botulinum bacteria in the soil travels up through the plant and into the food crop. Glyphosate kills the Lactobacilli bacteria. A few of the bacteria in Clostridium botulinum that can come up into our food are salmonella, listeria, and e-coli, as you can see by the food recalls in recent years.

I did more intensive research into Lactobacilli bacteria. This year I called Don after talking with Dr. Giovanni Formato in Italy, bee veterinarian at a food and safety institute, on a couple researches he had done with a probiotic. I came up with another formula using honey instead of commercial probiotics. Once I discovered that the pH factor was the key to bacteria growth, everything else fell into place. My intentions are to create a formula those in third-world countries can create by using the honey their bees make that will grow all the bacteria honeybees need for bee diseases, including L. plantarum and L. kunkeei, the 2 bacteria that prevent and/or kill AFB (American Foulbrood) disease.

KB: What do you believe is the key element for a healthy and strong apiary?

LC: The most important factor in keeping bees is keeping them out of stress by keeping their immune system as high as possible, which is 67% at best.

Keeping the hive clean by changing out the frames every 3-5 years, depending on how dark the comb is, how thick the cell walls are, and keeping the comb mold-free will keep diseases away, especially AFB. If a beekeeper has to feed, they need to add the good bacteria by using either probiotics or preferably the honey that has been kept back, to keep the bees healthy.

When beekeepers make splits they usually put the nuc containing the split back in the same apiary. What should be done is taking the nuc 5 miles away and leaving it for about 10-12 days; by which time the queen has hatched and mated with the drones from that area. Once the queen starts laying eggs, the nuc can then be brought back to the main apiary. There are so few commercial queen rearers in our county using the same bees each year. This is why I won’t take a swarm unless I know from where it came and how old the original hive is. I also don’t take hybrids anymore. I try to keep the bee diversity in my area as clean as possible for survival in that area. I am opposed to taking exotic bees from a different climate and transplanting them here.

Depending on the time of the year, I also don’t go into the hive as often as other beekeepers do. There are things one can do from the outside to determine whether or not a beekeeper needs to enter the hive. I rarely take honey from the bees unless I know there is more than a medium box full of honey for a 2-brood box hive; and that would still depend on the several other factors.

No-treatment beekeeping is actually, by far, cheaper than treating bees. I have a hard time convincing folks that you should not eradicate all pests from the hive because:

  1. You eliminate the purpose for the honeybee to build up a defense system.
  2. The pest will become resistant.
  3. And if you succeed in killing all the pests, Mother Nature will put in something stronger and larger.

Nearly 10 years ago the Varroa mite term had been changed to Varroa destructor because the mite grew larger and became resistant because of miticides. The honeybee adapts and learns to stop grooming. Essential oils affect the bacterial balance in the hive, not to mention interfering with the queen’s pheromone. I never really understand why anyone would put something through the roof the bee does not take through the entrance.

KB: What are you working on right now?

LC: I will be meeting with a microbiologist to test my formula in his lab, which is that honey can produce its own probiotics from those that are in the honey crop. But because we are killing the Lactobacilli that is killed by all the ‘cides, we are killing the very bacteria that sits on the gut wall and protects the autoimmune system. The honeybee can’t protect itself against these diseases if their autoimmune system is too low. All the disease-fighting bacteria a honeybee needs are in their honey crop. I am hoping that we can take what honey that has been harvested and capped and multiply the bacteria through a fermentation process and preserve it with the pH. I also want to check how much of the Lactobacilli bacteria are in the nectar harvested after a Roundup spray.

KB: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

LC: Honeybees have been, are now, and will always be my inspiration. Also, Dr. Don Huber inspires me. I have been abused for being a no-treatment beekeeper to the point of being made an example of or for being in denial of Varroa. I never said I didn’t have any mites; but always said I didn’t see any. The instructor stared at me during a test review class at a major apiculture conference and said, “I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t treat for Varroa.” When he pointed his finger the second time and repeated the remark, the whole class turned and looked back at me. I didn’t get involved in the rhetoric. The evening before, someone asked permission to sit at my table and within 5 minutes asked, “Do you really think you belong here?”

I was totally stunned by the whole weekend, as that was not the only 2 instances that happened. That was the second worst weekend of my life and I was on the verge of giving up on beekeeping. I shared it with Don and asked how he stood the abuse from he got from major chemical companies and such, and how did he keep up his courage. He wrote an email that so moved me it gave me the courage to continue my work of no-treatment beekeeping and teaching. Over time, I got stronger and more determined. I have since spoken to others who have been mistreated and threatened and have had physical attempts made on their lives.

Don refers people from around the world to me to answer their questions regarding honeybees and their deaths. When I respond I send links for verification. People sometimes refer to me as the “backup Lady.” Anything I write is usually backed up with links. And whenever someone writes or tells me a thing, I say, “Back it up.” Not just with 1 link or cherry-picking, but with several. If they refer to a study, I ask, “Who paid for the study? Who did the study? How was the study done, and for how long was the study done?”

KB: Can you share one of your favorite bee stories?

LC: The story below is one I wrote in my early days of beekeeping titled I Wonder. It is about my thoughts on beekeeping at that time and when I stopped listening to beekeepers and began listening to my bees. I am in my woodshop and I take you through the process as I work on the boxes. The italicized words are my in-the-moment thoughts.

I Wonder

Picking up the second end board, I pick up the glue for exposed edges of the mock dove-tail edges, stroke…stroke. I wonder what kind of machine makes these notches so square. So many boxes are needed for beekeeping. Had I known in the beginning, I wonder if I’ve have stayed in the game. I pick up my glue brush for the other edge, stroke…stroke. Made my last three top covers all by myself. Sure am proud of that. It was the first time in over 6 years I was able to create anything. Stroke…stroke.

Fitting the edges together, I watch the glue run down the sides of the box and take up the wet rag and wipe into the edges and into the exposed ends, wipe…wipe. Glue keeps them from deteriorating too fast in the weather and coming apart. My mind saw stuff dripping and drying down a box last summer … not cool looking. I wonder if it was honey syrup. Doing the dishes that night, it kept running through my mind about taking the feeders off too soon. Others told me mid-November was late in the season to be feeding. Wipe…Wipe. I remember looking out the picture window over my sink and there was a bee looking back at eye level, seeming to float in mid-air. She went up, down, then in a counter-clockwise circle before she stopped and stared at me … did that two more times. “What do you want?” I asked.

“We’re hungry,” was the silent reply.

I dried off my hands and grabbed my heavy-duty apron as I walked into the utility room. Mixed 3 gallons of honey/sugar syrup and set them outside for the truck bed. Got the top feeders and placed them on the hives. I fed my girls for four more weeks.

Picking up another box and placing it on the short side, I pick up a nail and tap, tap to start the nail down the predrilled hole. I wonder if I imagined that conversation.  A loud TAP, TAP, a lighter tap, tap then another tap for good measure. I wonder why we feel the need to hit one more time when the nail is seated. Tap..tap. Perhaps, two more times.

I pick up another nail and place it into the predrilled hole, tap..tap…TAP…TAP. Didn’t want to get this involved…just wanted a couple hives – that’s all, Wasn’t planning on assembling my own boxes, either. Another nail…tap..tap…TAP..TAP..TAP. I’m glad the new bees this winter are not the same ones who experienced my grievous errors last spring. A nail…tap..tap…TAP. TAP…tap. Another nail…. Two more.

The bees last summer stung me over 40 times in one visit, so arrogant was I in not using protection. Didn’t know fear had gripped me until I went back after putting on my suite. Upon my approach, I saw one of them go back into the hive. I swear I heard her say, “She’s baaaack.” Silence lulled inside the hive for a hair-breadth moment before an uproarious sound broke out. I sensed laughter.

Fear caused my hand to disconnect itself from my brain as I watched it pump the smoker so many times it created a dense fog between me and the hive.

A nail…tap..tap.TAP.TAP…tap. Did they laugh at me? So help me I heard one of them say, “Who does she think she’s kidding. Even if she was running, we can pump her full before she gets to the house.” More laughter? Tap..tap..BANG.BANG..BANG..tap, tap. Another nail, tap. BANG BANG BANG..tap. They were right about one thing. I would have forgotten I’d have driven the truck. Nail…chuckle, tap..TAP.BANG. Shucks! Too hard. Tap. Tap.

It took quite a while for the fog to lift when I saw them. A dozen teeny tiny sumo wrestlers lined up on the hive porch just waiting to sting me. I sat my smoker down and left the apiary.

I sometimes stare out the kitchen window at the beehives in the apiary in the distance. I always wonder at the size of the bee in relation to all the work they do, distances they travel, always fanning for warmth or cooling. Always moving, rarely stopping. No wonder they don’t live very long. Tap.tap…TAP..tap..tap. Another nail. They make the only whole, perfect food in the world. Tap.tap..TAP..TAP.tap. It never spoils. Another nail. I wonder if the lack of foraging, traveling, storing…is the reason they live longer in winter?

The Propolis, honey, wax, pollen – all of it heals. They are such amazing creatures. They ask only to be left alone and allow us to take the wealth. I see one more nail hole and take my time, Tap..…tap..…TAP. TAP..…tap. I wonder why nailing the last nail saddens me as I place the box next to the framing square. They’re never off square. My fingers touch the nail heads as I give the box one last critical look. Looking up at the clock, I see I have time to paint the two coats of primer.

I wonder what color and design they’re going to want on this box.

***

The next spring I found compassion, intelligence, and death rite in the hives – the 3 elements that indicate sentient being. It forever changed my beekeeping philosophy as I learned to keep bees by their perspective and do my best to get my ego out of the way.

KB: A piece of advice for rookie bee guardians?

LC: Read all of your books? Ask all of your questions. Get as many teachers and mentors as you can. In the end, it will be your girls who will teach you beekeeping as you sit with them in the apiary. Listen to their sound when you approach, listen as you go into the hive, and listen when you leave. Always be gentle while moving slowly without quick movements or loud noises. The first year will be for you to learn your equipment and when to use them and getting over your intimidation of 60,000 bees. The second year will be filled with learning about swarms, how they survived the winter, making splits and how to handle them, and the different personalities of the hive.

The third year you become comfortable after learning the basics and early cycle. You are more confident and are able to relax more as you get involved with the bees themselves. If after setting aside your ego, and after you have learned to honor the bee, they will bless you by singing their hive song – a phenomena that will forever change your philosophy of beekeeping.