A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Stay Curious With Honeybees

By Grai St. Clair Rice

    When we are four and five years old, most of us are curious about everything. “Why” is the common childhood mantra. There is infinite newness and fascination as we learn about our world. Our nascent consciousness is full, open, and focused on things immediately in front of us, or in the realm of mythical proportions. We love insects and dinosaurs—tiny creatures with a hundred legs or enormous creatures of mass extinction.  

    Curiosity is a blessing that keeps us young, and asking questions. As children experience nature, a connection to the wholeness of the Earth can occur, and without knowing it they develop their individuation, and their relationship to the rest of the world.  

    Insects hold a special place in most childhood experience. They can be frightening and fascinating all at once, and their diversity is a complete marvel. This experience can be via the physical reality of holding a Woolly Bear caterpillar or a wiggling earthworm, or through beloved children’s stories like “Charlotte’s Web.”

    Honeybees have a unique place in the realm of curiosity for children and adults. They are insects with six legs and four wings, and of course a stinger… but they make honey, build perfect honeycomb and can dance their way into our hearts. Generally, kids are more curious than scared to get close enough to watch honeybees, however it is pure delight to watch people watch honeybees, as any trepidation falls away and awe embraces the moment.

    There is a beautiful community of the hive to learn about, where each honeybee works for the good of the whole with a work ethic that is incomparable. Telling kids that the first task of a honeybee, once she emerges, is to turn around and clean her room is a delight to their parents. Honeybees can help instill social responsibility and this is no mere lesson to learn. Honeybees do nothing but good and help our world along the way.

    Later in life, people seem to forget awe and fear rules the day. Fear and marketing has lead to a completely horrifying reality found in an obsession with “pest” control. Gone is the curiosity about insects, here to stay seem to be products that tout they will rid your property of 100+ different kinds of insects, including spiders, ants and crickets… and start killing them immediately for six months.

    I am curious why these products aren’t illegal. Don’t we need spiders and ants and crickets, as well as honeybees and earthworms, and the birds and toads and snakes that eat these creatures? There is a balance of life on this planet. If we have no spiders won’t the flies get out of control? And there would be no more joy in watching a spider build its web in one night by the porch light to catch it’s dinner.

    We are all aware of the plight of the Monarch Butterfly as well as the declining honeybee population that effects our food supply. We may think this is of no real concern to our immediate lives or that the problem is too big for us individually to make an impact. As an adult, have you ever thought about watching honeybees do the work we so desperately need them to do for us? Stay curious and see what happens. Consider your own social responsibility.

    Curiosity can be transformative. By following our interests and our imaginations we ourselves become unique. Both fear and openness are conditioned responses that we all could do well to contemplate. Since life is never static, and is always changing, curiosity can act as the long balance bar of a tightrope walker used to create equilibrium.

    Don’t let the honeybee go the way of the dinosaur.

Grai St. Clair Rice is a photographer/writer.  Grai teaches beekeeping with HoneybeeLives in New Paltz and Brooklyn, and lectures on honeybees and gardening and reminds everyone that August 19 is National Honey Bee Day. Visit www.HoneybeeLives.org for info on her upcoming lectures, and to download a plant list for honeybees.