The Bee Carol
Silently on Christmas Eve,
the turn of midnight’s key;
all the garden locked in ice -
a silver frieze -
except the winter cluster of the bees.
Flightless now and shivering,
around their Queen they cling;
every bee a gift of heat;
she will not freeze
within the winter cluster of the bees.
Bring me for my Christmas gift
a single golden jar;
let me taste the sweetness there,
but honey leave
to feed the winter cluster of the bees.
Come with me on Christmas Eve
to see the silent hive -
trembling stars cloistered above -
and then believe,
bless the winter cluster of the bees.
Carol Ann Duffy
As we approach the shortest day of the year, we may look back with a sense of wonder, recalling our encounters with bees, their spring awakening, the rapid growing of the families and the culmination of bee life in the spectacular feasts of swarming. It all seems so long ago now. How re-assuring to know that the sweetness of summer’s nectar and pollen has been transformed into healing substances that will sustain the bees through the months to come. Every bee a gift of heat, as our patron, the Poet Laureate put it so beautifully in the poem above.
Ideally, deep winter is a time of deep restfulness for the colonies, composed now of winter bees which are physiologically quite different from their summer sisters, in that their greater fat bodies equip them for the task ahead. It is up to them to preserve the life and warmth of the community until spring, when the queen’s enhanced activity will ensure the succession. Now is a good time for thinking of them deeply, for quietly contemplating the life in the dark of the hives and to dwell in stillness on the high form of love they show us in all their bee-ing. The winter being’s rhythmical breathing, condensing in the cold air, is beautifully captured in Johannes Loritz’s video.
For us at the NBKT it’s a time to thank our many friends and supporters for their interest, good wishes and active support. If you were one of the many thousands who visited us in summer at Art in Action, you will have contributed to the re-orientation of the Natural Beekeeping Trust’s endeavour and advocacy. Not a cataclysmic change, but rather a re-calibration of our souls towards all-encompassing bee-centeredness. What does it mean? It means that after seven years of teaching “natural beekeeping” and giving many talks at home and abroad about the principles of bee-centered beekeeping, we shall now focus more on helping bees recover their wild nature and encouraging others to do the same. Besides that we will put our energies into various publishing ventures, about which we will tell you in the New Year.
It was the general public’s enthusiastic response to our “re-wilding bees” displays of log hives, tree beekeeping as well as our talks about the need for genuine and wholehearted bee guardianship that encouraged us to move more vigorously in the direction of “letting bees be bees”. Part of that will be a greater attention to providing nesting places at heights that bees naturally seek out when they have a choice. We must also thank the many beekeepers that approach us to tell us about their disenchantment with modern beekeeping and pledge their support of our work. We feel encouraged by each and every one of you. In the face of the accelerating onslaught on the natural world we will all have to work together like bees to nurture and preserve what we love.
Northern Bee Books’ new publishing venture Natural Bee Husbandry Magazine -launched two months ago- has attracted a huge number of subscribers in seventeen countries across the world, as well as a good number of excellent reviews. Do read the first issue and consider a gift subscription for the bee people in your life, or yourself. The next issue will appear at the end of January: a celebration of swarming, with contributions by Thomas D. Seeley, Gareth John, John Haverson and others.
Another gift idea for the avantgarde beekeeper in your life is tree beekeeper Jonathan Powell’s Field Guide to tree beekeeping, a comprehensive and immensely practical introduction to an ancient craft that appeals to a growing number of beekeepers both in Europe and the USA, testimony to a new consciousness of the bees’ nest site preferences that haven’t changed in two centuries of living in manmade boxes. A further publication to which we would like to draw your attention is Following the Wild Bees, by Thomas Seeley, easily the most exciting and inspiring addition to beekeeping literature this year.
A propos following the wild bees: if you are aware of any living in your area, do remember please to look out for them when the crocuses and snowdrops emerge next year, and follow their progress from then on. Early next year we will launch an international photographic competition to encourage attention to the wild honey bee nests that can be found in many places. Yes, they exist, and we consider it a matter of the utmost importance to acknowledge and celebrate their surviving in the wild, free from the assault on the integrity of the Bee, which sadly characterises much of modern beekeeping. More information on the topic of wild bees can be found here.
We wish you a beautiful and peaceful Advent and Christmas. Together with you, our friends, co-workers and supporters, we are confident that our working together in service of the Bee will continue to bear good fruit.
Thank you for your interest and your help.