While chatting with one of my besties, she spoke tentatively, “They’re trying to find a solution and it’s all coming too fast, so I’m not sure anything is working!”
I thought for a moment she was talking about COVID-19 as we were mere weeks into the pandemic. She was not. As a former bee inspector for the state of Michigan, she was talking about her passion — keeper of the bees.
My normally energetic friend sounded sad this morning, as our phone conversation continued. Weary she was as this was the second year in a row she’d found it necessary to replenish not only the bees but the queen for her hives.
“I told myself last year, that this would be the last time!” With four of the five hives no longer in use by the little buggers, she was grieving.
“I don’t mind giving it away the honey as I need not make money; I just can’t afford to keep reinvesting into something only to replace it within the year!”
“How much does it cost?” I asked wanting to learn more about her dire mood.
“$150 for each hive and its inhabitants!”
Not bad, I thought, considering therapy could be that per hour. “Do you enjoy it?” I questioned knowing full well the answer she would give.
Her gentle voice confirmed my hunch. “Yes. But I need to have compassion for them as well, and if they are only going to last one season before dying, I just don’t know if I can do that to them!”
“It goes to the microscopic level,” she explained. “During the pollination process, the systemic pesticides may be making everything toxic, including the nectar. This may be responsible for killing the pests, but the honey bees become victims too. They are finding residue of the pesticide in the bee bread.”
“Bee bread?” I questioned.
“It’s when the bees mix the honey with the pollen. This is where they suspect that the fungicide could be getting in and killing the bees.”
“So what do they need bee bread for?”
She knew well the answer. “It feeds the bees — all of them. But when the queens are in the process of becoming queens, they are also fed royal jelly. In fact, all bees get a bit of the royal jelly (something the bees makes from their own bodies). But, the queens are continually fed this in order for them to become what they were meant to be.”
Now I wasn’t just curious, but fascinated. “Isn’t there already a queen in the hive? Why would they need a new one, and how do they know when they do?”
She was patient with me as she conveyed her knowledge. “Sometimes they have to replace her if she gets too old. The community decides when the time is for her to be replaced. When it comes, they select a few larvae to each be placed into a cell until the process of becoming a queen is complete.”
Now I wasn’t born yesterday, so I knew well how things would go over in this house if there was more than one queen bee. Thus, I continued. “So what happens if they set aside three larvae, and eventually all three queens burst forth? How does that work?”
“They fight it out! Only a queen bee can sting over and over again. So, they fight it out by stinging each other over and over until there is only one survives. In other words, it’s war! And, the strongest queen wins.”
Wow! This is like a bestselling thriller, I thought!
She continued. “There are even times when a hive will get too strong and the queen will decide to take half the bees with her in order to establish a new one. Then, those left behind must create a new queen by the process we just discussed.”
Well, there you have it. Apparently, it’s what we’re fed that helps us become who we are created to be. It’s that “royal jelly” we must continue to drink of if we are to be like Him. Pretty scriptural too if you ask me, “More will be expected to whom more is given” (Luke 12:48).
And there’s proof in that honey bread too. Sweet it is to be partakers of. Transformative it is to be in communion with His community. Amen.
Kathleen Kjolhaug lives on the family homestead outside of Clearbrook with her husband Pete. She enjoys writing about family life and brings humor into the sacred moments of everyday living.
Theology in the Trenches appears in several local newspapers throughout Minnesota. Kathleen can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com