Pollen and Politics; Beekeeping and Bi-Partisanship
SBK is where I invite you to learn about sustainable food sources – not politics. But after attending a recent beekeeping class, it occurs to me that those busy little bees have a lot to teach us as we all navigate the new political landscape.
So I thought I’d set out to write about politics, without being political. Let me know if it worked!
We think of bees as the ultimate pest, and if you’ve been stung; you may never decide to respect bees. But the bees aren’t the enemy, and when the total environment is nurtured, they are perfectly content to do their part to keep nature on course. Bees are not interested in self-preservation; they are interested in their colony’s advancement. Also… that bee that you think stung you might have actually been a wasp dressed up like a bee.
Bees have forever been an integral part of our food ecosystem. We know this because ancient cultures were documenting their own beekeeping on cave etchings. They knew that the secret to sustaining the environment, and making it better every day, was to understand more than just their own hunger – but also what the bees and flora needed to survive. They studied the needs of their very interdependent ecosystem to see it from all points of view.
Successful beekeepers also know that what they do is a craft, not a science. They don’t read just a single book with one point of view, or have a single mentor. Instead, they are willing to continue to evolve their thinking. They study all beekeeping philosophies, but most importantly they study their bees – and let their environment teach them what the bees need for a successful apiary that contributes to bee health, honey production, and pollination of the flowers around it.
Bees have jobs (literally… housekeeping, nursing, undertakers, foragers, builders, queen attendants, heaters, etc.) and they know that regardless of the stereotype of their function, they are all critically necessary and that they cannot survive as a colony without every single worker bee. Even the queen has a job she must tend to every day – there are no free lunches for any of the bees. This sense of community is endearing, but also a function of knowing what works. There is no shame in being a bee, only pride in helping your colony to thrive.
The foragers who go out to collect pollen (bee food) store it in “pollen pants” to bring it back to their colony. It’s adorable, but also means the colony’s success is dependent on them. The whole colony trusts them, without this trust the colony will suffer.
As for production, the plants that the bees get their nectar and pollen from flavor the honey we consume. Single plant honey can be good – but the best honey comes from a diversity of plants; when bees visited a variety of plants during their foraging.
And a principle of beekeeping that most beekeepers will subscribe to : Forget everything you thought was true, and start observing what is really going on.