Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No Such Thing as a Solitary Bee

Ok, so the truth is that there are lots of solitary bees, but they are not the honeybees that have lived and worked beside people for millennia. Why mention this? Because here in my no-longer-secret hometown, my picture is on the front of an article about beekeeping. I'm glad I'm in a veil, because I would never have had the opportunity to even open a hive without the help and friendship and wisdom of many others, and perhaps a few can be imagined in my place instead.
Some of them are beekeepers who are ready to tell others all about it, others enjoy a more private relationship with their bees, but it is a rare beekeeper indeed who does not rely on his or her connection to the rest of our community.
I like to tell people new to beekeeping that there is no such thing as a solo honeybee: a bee on its own is simply doomed. The dependencies are deep and complex: all the bees depend on the one indispensable Queen who is their mother, but she is the most helpless bee of all. The workers, who make the whole hive run, have nowhere to live and no food for the future without the existence of thousands of sisters back home who build and clean and guard and feed all day. Those lazy, fuzzy, funny drone boys cannot even feed themselves when their sisters close the doors to them.
And so many of us have opened our lives to them, some of us because we want to connect with our food supply, others to save the bees who are so essential to our agriculture, some for the love of honey, and some for the love of the green world around us.
Whether we planned on it or not, one of the windows that the bees seem always to open looks out on a world of natural miracles and wonder. And worries and responsibilities and joy as we try to help them thrive in a world that seems just packed full of challenges and threats and flowery opportunities.
Newspaper articles appearing now will perhaps make many more thousands of people aware of the bees on my roof and in yards and in flowers all over this city. My own personal hives have never been so exposed, and I hope I have not done wrong by them in sharing them with you. We live in a world that is full of fear, and I can certainly understand why something so unknown and seemingly out of place could cause concern. But we are in so much more danger without ties to the world and each other, without a community to turn to and ties that reach all the way into the world of bugs, plants, and critters.
I cannot tell you how good it feels to have a relationship that links me to a world of flowers and sunshine.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share a Telegraph obituary (sorry, the url might have to be copied & pasted in pieces) that got me interested in Eva Crane's book which I borrowed from the library. Interesting life and attitude! Extraordinary book, too.

Alison Gillespie said...

Wow! I love your blog. I read the article in the Post today and found your blog this afternoon. I have linked it to my own blog about urban gardening for wildlife in the DC area.

BeeHappy said...

Nice article Phang!

Bagheera Yoga said...

Hey Toni - thanks for coming-out and taking a stand at this time in the city for bees. My husband and I benefited in Winter 08 from your presentation at the Montgomery Beekeepers Beginners Course.

I've set up my hive in St. Mary's county - but would love to have a hive closer to home. With bees at the White House and this great local press support you've gotten, I do hope you've set the ball rolling for clear easier regulations which encourage beekeepers in Washington DC. I too will post a link to your blog from mine. There are a few photos of my hive on my blog too!
Bobbi in Adams Morgan

P. David Quesada said...

Hi Toni. I´m a spanish beekeeper. I knew your blog a few days ago (Catch the Buzz / Bee Culture / Kim F.) I´ve linked it to my beekeeping blog. I like to know what´s doing other people whth their honeybees

Calvin and Cherry said...

saw an article today about your blog and thought i'd visit. i'm a 2nd year beek in silicon valley and find it an interesting and rewarding hobby that has been very good for our local environment. the honey is good, too :)

i'll link to your blog later today.


Unknown said...

Great article in the Washington Post! - in combination with an article or two about the benefits of bees in the urban environment, increased media coverage should lead to increased acceptance and support for city bees... I wonder if UMd or some other area university has ever studied the pollination coverage of urban bees?

Marcy said...

Wonderful read, and great guy that Charlie is for allowing you the opportunity. The photography captures are fantastic as well! Thank you for sharing! Keep up the good work, and have a BEE-utiful evening! xo~

80% said...

Hurrah you are back and I love your blog, truly inspiring.....I really need your help and advice on starting a 25 beehive project somewhere important in the UK.....can I pick your brain sometime?


80% said...

Hurrah you are back and I love your blog, truly inspiring.....I really need your help and advice on starting a 25 beehive project somewhere important in the UK.....can I pick your brain sometime?


Ulrike said...

Hi Toni,

urban beekeeping is making headlines elswhere, too! A week ago, Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung published an article about "miel beton" gathered on the rooftops of Paris. The first one was an accident, when an employee of the Opera Garnier left a hive on the roof. For a short time, he thought, the hive was meant for his country house. When he went to remove it, he discovered it was nearly overflowing with honey. That was back in 1985. Now, an estimated 300 hives are producing honey in Paris, with yields of 50 and up to 100 kgs honey (instead of the usual 25 kgs : the flowering season is longer in the city than in the countryside and hardly any pesticides are used!

Brian said...


I follow your bee adventures and they are very interesting. You tweeted that you're looking for inner city beekeeping guide lines. Here in NJ, we have them posted on the department of agriculture's website:
also -
The primary focus is about being a good neighbor.
I am confused about your title, no such thing as a solitary bee - see this wiki-

Anyway, I run a 4H program to teach beekeeping here in NJ to youth. I'm sure the kids would love an invite to see some DC hives next year, maybe 1st hive if you could swing it. I've been building the club over the last two years. We're up to about 12 kids now.