Notes from a Reluctant Bee Keeper ~ by Guest Writer Cami Funkhouser

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I wrote the following article at the request of my friend, Babette Sicard, for inclusion in the introductory issue of her newsletter “Tending Midgard.”  So, to celebrate the arrival of Springtime, I am sharing it with you!!  Welcome the Sun!!  I hope you enjoy it!  ~Cami

I became a beekeeper in the Spring of 2009.

It was one of those “Bucket List” kind of ventures.

I spent much of the year before researching, learning, and reading as much as I could to prepare for what I expected to be an activity that would bring me closer to my spiritual center, softly weave the strands of my life toward acknowledging the wild soul that beat within my breast and, ultimately help to bring my family closer to a self-reliant and healthy lifestyle built on sustainable principles of stewardship.  I picked up my copy of “Beekeeping for Dummies,” and off I went, with visions of a humming productive honey-scented garden dancing in my head and the sweet taste of honey on my lips!

As with any new undertaking, you can (and should) expect a learning curve.  You can read as much as you want to, but until you actually get some hands on practical experience, all that reading is just fluff.  And if you’re anything like me, you’ll read yourself in circles and walk away scratching your head in confusion, certain that your bees will be the ones that fail the “Beekeeping for Dummies” short course you’ve enrolled them in.

Fortunately, the bees are already quite expert at their craft and need little from you in the way of help.  It’s you who’ll need a mini golden lasso with which to manage them.  Thankfully, there are bee clubs out there, a wealth of information on the internet and abundant networking opportunities if you look for them.   In very short order, I found my eyes opened to a whole world just buzzing with information with which to overwhelm myself with.

What started out with pulling over on the side of the road to chat with a fellow selling his surplus of velvety smooth, sweet liquid gold on a local roadway became a window into a rich world of diversity and information.  Talk with 100 different beekeepers and you’ll get 100 variations of, and 100 different perspectives on the wide, wonderful, and mysterious world of bees.  And every one of those 100 beekeepers will gladly talk your ear off and proudly walk you through their bee yard and perform a miniature ‘operation brain dump’ that will, in short order, leave your head spinning.  Beekeepers are wonderful folk.  They are earthy folk.  They are feisty, practical, fearless folk.  They are helpful and willing mentors.  And they have a wide variety of motivations for keeping bees.  Me.  I make 101.

Over the course of my first year of beekeeping, I only got stung once… which is amazing in itself considering the sheer volume of times I decided I should poke my head in the hive and make sure everyone was doing okay.  They tolerated my ineptitude with gentle patience and offered up lessons I take time to remind myself of each day.  They swarmed on me within a couple months in spite of my vigilance.  I learned a lot that first year and tried to follow all the instructions to the letter.  Now entering my third year as a beekeeper, I still consider myself more student than steward when I am in my bee yard.

The gentle honeybee has somehow earned a reputation synonymous with stinging death; a reputation very far removed from the truth.  You see, sometimes, some of the most important and valuable lessons we can learn can be learned from the lowliest and most industrious of creatures.

The honeybee has one such important lesson to impart:  she is the only creature in the animal kingdom, that I am aware of, that does not kill or injure any other being as it goes through its regular life cycle.  The honeybee, ‘Apis mellifera,’ damages not so much as a leaf.  In fact, honey bees take what they need in such a way that the world around them is improved.  By pollinating blossoms during nectar and pollen foraging activities, the honey bee contributes directly to the abundance found on Earth.  This industrious little creature even transforms the nectar it collects from sugar water into deliciously sweet and health-promoting honey.  As a result, beekeeping is a wonderful way to give back to the world and help make it a better place, while at the same time receiving many incredible gifts.

The honeybee inspires me to work into my daily life this lesson:  that we should take what we need to live in the world in such a way that we give something back and improve upon things, thus making the world a better place.

This is my inspiration, my guiding principle and the humble honeybee reminds of this lesson every day.  Not a bad lesson to stumble upon.

~Cami Funkhouser

Thanks so much Cami!


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