As I approached the hive I could see hundreds of golden, shimmering wings
emerging from the now bright blue sky. The lively bees were zooming in off their flight path and landing one-by-one on the front porch of their three-story painted hive box. The gold lemniscate ~ infinity symbols glimmered in the afternoon sun.
It borders on the miraculous. The hive is five and a half years old and can now be considered survivor stock (for those that have an issue with the word "stock" - I get it. Please excuse the semantics.)
Cleopatra Hive is thriving on her own accord. Her genetics are heroic. This lineage of bees has overcome mites, disease, gmo’s, pesticides, months of smokey skies, thunderstorms and all kinds of other wild weather and yet she persists.
It's been five + years since my son caught the hive as a wild swarm when he was six years old. He pleaded with me to let him catch it when we found the bee swarm clustered on the very same tree where I had only hours before caught my own first feral bee swarm. Bees are sometimes known to send out a secondary swarm to the same general area. It's believed the bees are attracted to the same area by the pheromones of the elder queen bee.
So there they were serendipitously clustered on the trunk of the tree just within reach of a six-year-old boy. My son donned my veil and gloves and scooped the bees off the tree where they had landed in a cluster. He lightly dropped handful - by - handful of the clustering bees into to the awaiting hive box.
When I asked him what he wanted to name the hive he proclaimed without hesitation - "Cleopatra Hive"!
During the first few years that we were stewarding Cleopatra Hive, I practiced various interventions with the hopes of helping the 'bien' of bees to survive. I married different swarms in with the original bees, fed the hive in the late fall months when nectar and pollen were in a dearth. I relished in the occasional hive inspection.
There is truly nothing like opening a beehive and smelling the gorgeous scent of honeycomb and fresh honey while being serenaded with the spine-tingling bee buzz and hive hum. Oh, and the thrill of spotting the elusive Queen Bee as she scurries across the hexagon comb and attempts to camouflages herself among the maiden bees offers the height of intrigue.
But as my relationship and studies of the bees deepened I began to feel less and less of an inclination to intervene in the bees natural processes of maintaining the health of their hive.
It is not without controversy that I publicly state that I am now mostly a hands-off beekeeper, in fact, I would now claim to be more of a bee steward. The controversy lies in the reality that there are just about as many opinions about beekeeping as there are beekeepers these days. Opinions vary wildly on how and even if, humans should be keeping bees and most especially keeping them for intensive honey production and migrating them for large-scale agriculture pollination needs.
I leave the controversy there for now.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra Hive lives on nestled close to a thriving organic farm that borders what's left of the oak savanna that once spread over the hills of these lands. Her hive is heavy with honey, buzzing maiden bees and ready guards, bright yellow pollen and the magic hum of her womb-like mysteries.