Boulder, CO: Sounds True 2016
First of all: This is the most wonderful book about bees!
And it is just perfect for everyone: Read it before having bees and you will already start with the right attitude. Read it when you are familiar with natural beekeeping, for sure you will find some new aspects in it. Read it when you simply like honey, you will discover an awe-inspiring universe of magic and spirit, tenderness and allegiance, duty and destiny.
As a biodynamic farmer, the author treats all beings with respect and affection. She calls herself a “relational beekeeper” (p.7) and her approach to bees is full of reverence, gratitude, and love.
Jacqueline Freeman takes us on a journey into the world of the honeybees, from which we will return transformed. We enter the hive like a holy place and become aware of its wholeness. Each individual is committed to doing whatever the colony requires to move forward. There is no separation, the Bien is a unity related to its environment: the plants, the light, the landscape and the seasons. Within the hive every bee has her task and the humans named them after it. JF reveals us their real names: The queen is the hive mother (“the central focus of the bees’ dedication to their family, like a beating heart” p.35), the workers are the maidens (“models of harmony, integrity, and devotion”, doing the “labor of love” p.23), their “unborn babies” (larvae, pupae), unhatched bees of any stage are the pips, and the drones are the holiest of beings (singing the “ancestral song” that “describes the spiritual and functional purpose of honeybees in the world” p.27).
She tells us about the enormous importance of the scent, the comb vibrations, a great diversity in flowers to earn, and produce their alchemistic medicines. She of course does not use a queen excluder, because the queen must have access to the entire hive to leave her royal scent everywhere. This calms the colony because it conveys that everything is alright.
She talks to us about the healing harmonies of the bees’ songs expressing everything happening inside the hive. We are allowed to take part in the intensifying excitement in times of abundance, fertility, and expansion. We can feel the enormous, overwhelming joy in ourselves when the most powerful bees’ song is being sung. “In the unity of the hive, the flow of steady progress brings out the Song of Increase. A hive singing the Song of Increase is in full harmony. This is the highest state of being within the hive, the time when every bee is in right action and the hive is in full expression, when love flourishes within the hive. This is what all hives seek – to sing the Song of Increase.” (p.72)
The two celebratory keystones in the life of a bee colony – swarming and a new virgin queen hatching and ascending into the role of queen – are described so vividly that you get the impression of watching a film, even more so to be part of it.
As the subtitle suggests, the author talks to bees and she listens when they talk to her. We have the great honor of reading what they say in “their own words”. The book becomes very personal and lively also through the description of incidents – daily and extraordinary – like drumming the bees, the forgotten fireworks or the bee sleepover jar. It also provides concrete recommendations for action or rather what is not to be done. Because basically what the bees need to be well is simple: Open the hive less often. Before you do anything ask yourself if your action is in service to the Bien. Be kind when taking honey and leave plenty for the bees. “When human convenience is the reason for a certain activity, that activity is usually harmful for the bees.” (p.38)
If you are in a respectful relation with bees you are able to understand their needs. Then the logical consequence is getting away from conventional, factory-farming methods. Avoid everything that weakens the bees and provide them an environment full of diversity “so the Bien may grow and develop in accord with its own wisdom.” (p.161) A healthy hive can manage challenging conditions and it is capable of living in balance with mites. “They will survive if we can keep our fingers off them long enough to let them bring forth processes that are already present in their collective mind of their knowledge, so they can develop new natural systems.” (p.79)
Bees can heal not only themselves but also humans. With their honey, field cake aka bee bread, propolis, with their sound, and also with their love and kindness. When we engage in an affectionate way with these extraordinary creatures it will widen our horizon and expand our consciousness. A wholehearted relationship with bees will become gloriously rewarding for us and the bees. If we abandon our human hubris, we too will be able to recognize our place in the bigger picture.
“I’d love to see more beekeepers question the wisdom of conventional beekeeping methods and move to bee-centric, clean, treatment-free systems.” (p. 161)
I’d love to see this book translated in German and in all languages of the world. Thank you so very much, Jacqueline Freeman!