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Eulogy for a Honey Bee Colony

No species on earth has a 100% survival rate.

Not even honey bees.

Not even honey bee colonies living in ideal conditions in the wild.

If every colony survived every year, and cast a swarm, the world would have been overrun with honey bees thousands of years ago.  The earth has her own systems and processes for maintaining balance.  When we focus our attention, resources, and energy on a single wild species we can often forget that. 

In fact, an assumed ideal of a 100% survival rate in our apiaries may not only be totally unrealistic and unnatural, but may, in the long-run, actually cause us to inflict harm on our bees through the unnecessary intervention we might bring to bear as we pursue that goal.  (I've written more about that here.)

But still, for most of us, the loss of a colony is annoying at best and heartbreaking at worst... on every level.  I still grieve if I accidentally crush a single bee.

So then, besides doing our best to learn from the loss, and become a better steward of honey bees in the process, how can we think about a deceased colony?  Here's how I think about them:

While living, they did their work in the world.

And they did it very, very well.

As they lived in the world, performing their role and fulfilling their purpose, they consumed so very little: a little nectar, a little pollen, a little tree resin, a little water.

And, as they performed their role, not one living thing was harmed in any way… not a leaf on a single tree was bent… not a petal on a single flower was bruised.

In fact, as this colony fulfilled their purpose in the world, the complete opposite of harm occurred; the world was made more flowering and fruitful, more productive and prolific, more bountiful and beautiful, more life-giving and lush.  Everyone and everything benefited from the way that this colony lived in the world.  I certainly did.

And, beyond that, they contributed to the survival and welfare of their species.  They provided drones for mating with virgin queens from other colonies, and they left behind resources of drawn comb, nectar, pollen, and honey for the use of some future colony that will need them.

Is this simply "spin" on a bad experience?  In my mind, certainly not.  It is the truth... and this truth helps me to think more globally and more holistically as I strive to become a better steward of honey bees.

I hope this helps you as well.


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  • Malabi on

    Beautifully explained

  • LIsa Coggins on

    Beautiful! Bees are simply amazing!

  • James McDonald on

    Great stuff.

  • Barbara Neebel Meier on

    Love this.


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