It is winter. The drones do not appear to be here now. Or so we think because we cannot see them. Not only do we deny their existence, we have, as beekeepers gone further than that. We follow our teachings and we slaughter them. Or dissect them. Or practice the “skill” of queen bee mutilation on them. They are the male calves. We regard them as purveyors of unwanted mites, as beings of gargantuan appetite eating “our” honey, as a waste of space.
The bees, of course, love them, we do know that. They show us the cherishing of their drones in many ways. They feed them and give them access, even to the heart of the hive. The quietly observant beekeeper can feel that the mood around the hives becomes joyous, buoyant, confident when the first drones grow in their cells: even more so when drones are on the wing.
Remarkable is the change in the bees when the male element in the hive emerges into physicality. It is always there, of course, let us never forget. It is within the queen, in her spermatheca, nascent during winter time, but is as real to the bees as your certainty that another day will dawn when you go to sleep.
What always amazes one is how the first drones of the season know where the drone congregation areas are. The mystery places where the drones from many hives and many localities meet. There are no other drones to follow and the same areas get used for years on end. Some of those noted by Gilbert White in Hampshire in the 1700’s are still in use today. So it makes sense that the drones know geography, but maybe not in the way we humans understand it.
We imagine that the drones merely fly to these areas to await the fly-past of virgin queens. It is stated emphatically in books that this is so. What do we know? We know nothing about what the drones do either on their way to their meeting places or whilst there; that is the truth of it. When the old heathland beekeepers said of a colony with drones in spring “the bees are knowing now” they did so because they knew something that is lost to us.
When we understand drones it will change the way we see the world. Or maybe we will have to change the way we see the world before we understand drones. What blinds us from “seeing” is a strange sense of entitlement and superiority that we have …. that we know better than the bees. Of course, we will not see until we acknowledge that we know far less than the bees. Until then we are left with feelings. These may be real and deeply experienced but we have no faith in them. The rigid dictates of our arid intellects inform our actions. It cannot be other when the spirit is denied.
Who built the prison of our spiritual impoverishment? It must be time now that we ask ourselves. It must be time that we addressed it, or the bees will suffer our ignorance and estrangement in ever greater measure.
Spirit denial will prove lethal to the bees, and the world of the living in its entirety. In time, our world will become waste and void. We all sense that. For beekeepers, bee people, people susceptible to the love of the hive, there is hope because the bees, in spite of everything, have faith in us. Such faith can only be sustained in a being of cosmic stature that has developed through love to its highest, purest form. The bees are putting us under their spell, and therein lies our hope.
Without the bees in our lives we shall be nothing.
Photo: Eric Tourneret