Some of you may remember our observation hive, last seen in these pages in its incarnation as a Coptic Cross. (More or less, see my mother’s comment for clarification.)
This week, the hive died. For a while we suspected something was amiss in the hive, as the population was declining precipitously. That is not unusual for this time of year when the queen has stopped laying and the bees are getting ready to hunker down for the winter. But it was disturbing to notice that the normally tidy (if they were my relatives, I would label them OCD) bees were not dispatching the dead bodies, but instead leaving them to lie & rot on their front porch, bleak intimations of mortality.
Because there are only four frames in the observation hive, they never get up to the numbers of a normal hive (60,000 at peak of the summer) nor do they store up honey for the winter. So as the nectar dried up we started feeding honey to the bees. (CSB devised an ingenious screened porch off their front porch that works quite well for pouring in honey, local of course.) But we think we made it too easy and that the hive was robbed. We saw a couple of deadly battles outside the window pierced by their entry hole, but the truth is, the observation hive was just too few and too weak to resist.
One day there were more dead bees piled up at the base of the hive than there were living bees despairingly walking across the honeycomb. And the next day there were none.
I know it’s Nature’s Way and all that, but it still terribly sad when a hive dies. It is a loss both singular and multiple. We think of each hive as a single functioning organism with a single intelligence and a single purpose; Rudolph Steiner wrote of the hive as analogous to a human brain. But it is impossible not to notice that there are thousands of individual bees in there. When I watch a bee balancing on the stamen of a cleome and collecting pollen, it is one bee I am watching. So I am mourning her. Many thousands of her.