The past week was filled with firsts.
My husband David and I installed beehives in our backyards in New Hampshire and Cape Cod, bringing to life a long-time dream of mine to help the endangered honeybee population. We built and situated the hives, picked the bees up and finally placed them in their new homes. The clock was ticking: they needed to get into the hives as soon as possible, having already spent a few days in the packaging on the trip from Georgia.
We carefully removed the queen box, exposed the candy plug and placed her in the hive. Next, we opened the worker bees’ box and shook them into the hive. I was dressed in my bee costume, and felt very comfortable as ten thousand or so bees buzzed around me. It was an amazing experience! We placed the bars on the hive and gingerly closed it. We opened the side window, letting us peek inside the hive, and watched as the workers surrounded the queen — Nature’s intelligence at it best. With them settling in so well in New Hampshire, we moved to do it all over again with our second hive on the Cape!
Monday, we returned to New Hampshire, and were startled by what we found at our front door. In an effort to protect the bees from the wind, we had placed the beehive too close to our house, and bees circled the walkway. There were so many that it made it difficult to use that door. We made a big mistake putting them this close to the house, so we decided to move them at dawn the next day. We woke up at 5:30 AM, put on the bee costumes and very gently moved them to another area. Moving bees is really tricky business, especially for new beekeepers like David and me, but at this point we felt we had little choice.
We settled them into their new area, and kept a close eye on them for the next fews days. Each day we’d peek in through the little side window. They were quiet and protected in their hive. As we had assumed earlier, this spot was windier than the first. Our property has few trees and sits on open fields, so wind can be an issue, but we felt we had found the best suited area for them with the given conditions.
Finally, a beautiful day arrived at the end of the week. The wind stopped and the sun was shining bright. I was talking to a friend on the front door step, when we both noticed a deep humming sound. “What’s that?” my friend asked, as a dark cloud flew through the yard. It was the bees. They hovered over the front lawn for a few seconds, and then moved down the driveway. It was an incredible thing to witness. I told my friend that they were most likely off to forage for food and they would be back. I didn’t yet know the real significance of what we had seen.
During the afternoon, I created a beautiful watering station for the bees and brought it to the hives. As I approached, I could tell something was wrong: there were no bees left in the hive at all. They were all gone. My heart sank, and guilt flooded in. I didn’t want to call David to tell him. We both cared so much for the bees, and I knew it would bum out his day, so I waited. I kept myself busy in the garden, hoping that I would hear that beautiful humming sound come up the driveway, announcing their return to the hive, but it never came.
This was a really hard lesson. It seemed our experience was unfairly cut short. I had a lot of different emotions flood in. Why had this happened to us? What had we done wrong? So many thoughts crossed my mind that I didn’t want to admit to, but they bothered me all the same. I sat down on the grass next to the empty hive and wished they would come back. Then I remembered how beautiful they were as they left the property. The sound they made still echoed in my ears.
I started to feel better. They were off to create another hive in a place that felt better suited to them than the one we had given them. This was a good thing. My commitment to this project was to help the bees, and their amazing intelligence told them that moving on was a better plan for them at that time. I got up and felt good about this lesson. The bees had taught me so much already. This was not the end, just the beginning. The bees were teaching me this. I felt enormous gratitude for having witnessed them leaving the hive — at least I saw them travel away. The timing was so perfect that I felt it was a sign to me from the bees to persevere and keep going on.
It’s occurred to me that there are no mistakes in life when you look at all lessons as an opportunity to learn.