I decided all those years ago that keeping bees was something that should be in my life path. I decided this for many reasons.
The most obvious reasons I had for trying my hand at housing bees were the honey and the pollination benefits. The reason that was foremost for me was that I wanted to experience the thrill of participating in something slightly dangerous, highly educational, and extremely beneficial.
These reasons have been beyond fulfilled.
What I did not anticipate were the endless and unexpected rewards that came along with the job of tending bees. They include, but are not limited to:
1. New friends. Beekeeping has brought me some of the most amazing new friends. I have met them through the Kalamazoo Bee Club. I have met them at my home when people driving by stop to ask about my beehives. I have been contacted many times by people interested in starting up their own bee colonies. In all of these ways, I have held open my door and said “welcome” to these new friendships. I have been rewarded deeply by these connections with people from all walks of life who have the same desires and interests that I have. I would never likely have met most of them had it not been for that common love of these striped insects.
2. Increased photography subjects. I frequently photograph flowers. I have files upon files of flower pictures. Once I added honeybees to my yard, I began taking pictures of the bees on the flowers. I have found this to increase my love of the floral images and capturing a still shot of the bees as they work gives me a window into their world which is slightly addictive if you love imagery like I do.
3. Community participation opportunities. Clubs, organizations and groups are frequently searching for people who have knowledge of interesting things. Understanding the many ways a honeybee can benefit a community allows me the opportunity to present information to people to help share the concerns associated with our honeybees and to raise awareness of their importance to our world. Many times I have gone to speak. Many times groups have come to my home to sit amongst the ladies on their flights and observe them in their glory. Change, I feel, comes by influencing one person at a time. By reaching out on a small scale to the people who want to listen, I feel that I am helping to add a small section of assistance to our environment. It is my hope this small section is a part of the puzzle that makes the whole.
4. A connection with children. Probably my personal favorite benefit of keeping bees has to do with the fascination of the children. I show them sweet things and sticky things and fill their minds with facts about bees that they can understand. I see them awed by the details I reveal to them. Like watching a bee emerge from its cell, I see the young ones instantly transform from a feeling of hesitation about these stinging bugs to a beautiful understanding and harmony with them. I feel that the long-term benefits of reaching out to the children could one day create an entomologist or two – maybe the person who leads to the answers for our many bee questions is one I once had spoken to.
5. The ability to help others overcome fears. I have had several people (adults and children) come to me with an intense fear of bees. Rapid heart beating, panicked breathing fear. After a slow progression of moving closer and closer and loads of discussion about the way bees work, I have soon found these people sitting amongst the hives with bees flying all around them in perfect harmony.
6. The ability to predict weather. The hum of the wings, the way they gather at their door and the patterns they fly all give clues to the weather. Bees and air are strongly connected and by paying attention to them, I have found I can easily predict a storm or a bright and sunny day in the near future.
Yes, I have honey and my plants (both garden plants and weeds) have never been more robust than they are since obtaining bee colonies. But the rewards they bring to me are so much more. They have truly changed the way I exist in the world and I hope – whether you keep bees or are just interested in them – they provide you with the joy they bring to me.