Life is like honey, sticky and sweet

My favourite thing to do at the ROM during my volunteer shifts is look at the beehive and explain it to people. Since we got the new hive in a few weeks ago, the whole section has become immensely more fascinating. I am not a bug or insect person whatsoever, but those bees, THOSE BEES! They get to me. They are so beautiful and talented and hard working and wonderful. It is so easy to get lost watching them as they scuttle to and from the hive, returning with giant yellow sacks of pollen attached to their legs. You can see almost every process going on, from the queen bee laying her eggs, larvae in the cells, the cells as they are closed off for the pupae to turn into adult bees, etc. You can watch as they feed the babies, make the honey and create new cells from beeswax. Today I saw a bee carry a dead bee off the bottom of hive and take it out. It was really cool. (On a totally unrelated note: I also saw a frog pee three times last month and fed some axolotls last week. Also very cool).

Here are some not so great phone photos so you can get a sense of the area (my camera is currently MIA).

The two main books we have for bee information are The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci and Nature’s Little Wonders: Bees by Candace Savage. The first one is a wonderfully easy to read yet extremely informative book that presents almost everything you need to know to have a working knowledge of honeybees. I’ve read it numerous times as it can basically answer anyone’s questions. The second book offers a more poetic, literary take on bees. While I have not read it cover to cover, it goes in depth about all sorts of bees in a scientific way while at the same time presenting various artistic interpretations and appreciations of bees throughout history.

Both of these books and all my time spent watching the colony has given me a new love for the tiny little pollinators. I’ll leave you with my favourite poem from the end of the book:

When the last bee died, 
nobody noticed. Nobody put on black
or made a dirge for the death 
of honey. Nobody wrote an elegy
to apricots, no one mourned for cherries.
When the last bee died,
everyone was busy. They had things to do,
drove straight to work each morning,
straight back home each night. The roads
all seriously hummed. Besides,
the pantries were still packed
with cans of fruit cocktail in heavy syrup,
deep deep freezers full
of concentrated grape and orange juice,
stores stocked with artificial flavoring.
When the last bee died, nobody saw
the poppies winking out, nobody cried
for burdock, yarrow, wild delphinium.
Now and again a child would ask for
dandelions, quickly shushed: That pest!
And everyone is fine. The children healthy,
radish-cheeked. They play she loves me/not
with Savoy cabbage leaves, enjoy the telling
of great myths, peach and peony.
No one believes in apples any more.
     End Notes for a Small History
     Betty Lies
     “Southern Poetry Review”
     Summer 1998 Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1 page 33

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