One of the concepts I try to communicate to people about honey bees is that they are all individual parts of a singular being. The colony, often described as a “Super-organism” is more than just a bunch of bees in a box or tree. All the individual bees belong to one of three castes, each of which plays a vital role in the health, well-being and reproduction of the whole. None of the bees in any of the three castes can survive long without the others.
Honey bee colonies live in nests made of wax excreted by worker bees. Colonies have been known to build their nest just about anywhere. Inside void spaces of trees, buildings and boxes made by beekeepers called “hives”. They will also build nests out in the open, under tree limbs, decks, and other places they can attach wax to and draw it downward from. They prefer to build nests inside void spaces but it’s not a deal breaker to build in the open.
When it comes to beekeepers managing bee hives, I encourage them to consider the following… Let the bees manage the nest and the beekeeper manage the hive. By working to reduce unnecessary external stress factors such as invasive pests, parasites, scavengers, etc… it is possible to have colonies focus and concentrate their less strained resources and energy to better effect in protecting and managing the nest within.
In my Organic Beekeeping Classes and Retreats I go into greater detail in how to effect such management to the benefit of the colony.
I consider myself an organic beekeeper. My beekeeping efforts prioritize conservation and sustainable hive management. Because of these things, I spend a great deal of time and interaction with each hive.
A hive itself is only a shelter for the nest of a colony of honey bees. Honey bees consist of three types of “castes” of bees that cannot exist without each other. They depend on each other for survival. The colony is itself a “super-organism” that in my experience has shown that as a colony, expresses a singular identity and even it’s own personality.
Every colony having it’s own personality and seen as such is easier for me to identify with. Because bees usually build their nests inside enclosed void spaces, like those made by beekeepers, seeing the hive as one entity is, for me, easier to make a personal connection with. I see each hive sort of as a representation of one creature. As in, there’s a dog, a cat, a deer, and look, a hive of bees.
That’s one of my hives of bees. I have interacted with her, I refer to all of my hives as a “her”, and watched her over a period of time. I have seen her sick and attacked by pests. I have seen her strong and healthy and vibrant and alive.
She has a unique personality. Just like each of my other hives. Because of these interactions and truly, building a relationship with these hives the way I built a relationship with my dog, I give my hive a name. I give every hive a name.
That’s how I approach being a beekeeper.