The Honey Bee Crusade

Honey Bees

Rainey’s been studying honey bees lately, on account of the hive we have hidden in our backyard, and because a few weeks ago, in the middle of the afternoon, a swarm of them hovered above her head while she and her younger brother played outside.

“Thousands of bees are all over the backyard,” Rainey hollered when they dashed inside to take cover.

And sure enough, when I looked out the back door, I saw a thick cloud of bees buzzing midair, about forty feet from their nest in our huge maple tree. Up until this point, we had an understanding with the bees: the kids kept their distance if the bees kept theirs. But now, it seemed, our agreement was broken.

I called my husband at work and asked him what to do.

“Do you know if they’re honey bees?” he asked calmly.

“No,” I snapped. “And I don’t really care. The kids can’t even go outside!”

“Well, see if you can find out. Because if they are, we shouldn’t kill them.”

I admired his merciful gesture, especially since he’s allergic to them and his head could blow up like a medicine ball if he got stung, but I wanted those suckers dead. I hung up the phone, though, and reluctantly called a friend to help me identify them. An hour later, after inspecting the hive, my friend confirmed that they were indeed honey bees.

“You should really call an apiarist to come and relocate them,” he suggested. “There’s a shortage of honey bees, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know,” I wanted to say, “but thank you for the guilt trip I’m about to take if I kill them.”

After talking with him some more and searching Google later, I learned it’s a legitimate, worldwide problem. Because of pesticides, disease, and parasites, not enough honey bees are pollinating crops, which means less food for us. (Did you know every third bite of food we eat is thanks to a pollinator? Crazy.) So, if we did have a healthy colony in our backyard, it made sense to save them.

Rainey immediately joined the crusade. She, too, began researching the problem online and decided it was in everyone’s best interest – honey bees included – for us to become beekeepers.

Not going to happen, I told her, but I promised to call a “real” beekeeper to come assess the situation.

After making several more phone calls, a friendly man from the local beekeeping association told me in order to relocate the bees, we’d most likely need to cut down the tree housing their hive. We’re talking about a huge, hundred year old sugar maple, so that wasn’t an option. The only logical solution then, he assured me, was to let them stay put, that it wouldn’t be as dangerous as it seemed.

“There’s no need to panic. What you saw this afternoon happens every spring when the queen bee leaves the hive with a bunch of her worker bees to start a new colony. Swarming is just the natural means of reproduction for them.”

Then he added, “The bees will move on if you patiently ignore them, so the best thing to do is stay back and keep your kids away from the swarm. But it’s perfectly acceptable to admire and appreciate the bees from a safe distance.”

And so that’s what we did for the rest of the afternoon.

For days after, Rainey observed the old hive in the crack of our aged maple tree. She took pictures and made sketches and studied the social habits of the honey bees left behind. She checked out books from the library and wrote a detailed report in her science notebook and made an iMovie with my phone.

What honey bees taught me about relationships

What honey bees taught me about relationships

What honey bees taught me about relationships

She never located the new hive, which the apiarist indicated might be within a hundred feet or so of the old one, but the honey bees haven’t swarmed again. Best of all, nobody’s been stung. It’s been a great learning experience for her, for all of us really, and through these honey bees, God’s given me some interesting spiritual insight.

Like many of us, life’s dealt me a fair share of difficulties lately: broken relationships, unrealized dreams, medical emergencies. And it feels like a swarm of bees are hovering over my head. My first plan of attack is to kill them, to ask the Lord to smoke out the circumstances that sting. But for whatever reason, He’s decided not to. He’s decided it’s better for the troubles to stay.

I’m not thrilled about this. But after watching the honey bees in the backyard, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for pollinators and what they do for us. Without them, plants cannot produce fruit, which are vital to our food supply, to our health and well-being. The same is true for trials: without them, I can’t bear fruit (the kind that Jesus says will last), and, though they may sting, they’re necessary for my spiritual health, too.

In other words, problems are the pollinators of my soul, my heart the perfect habitat, and I shouldn’t be so quick to kill them off. Instead, when difficult circumstances swarm, I can seek shelter in the safety of His Presence, and then, with a little time and distance, admire the beauty they bring to my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:23-24)


  1. pkanderson says:

    Meg, I love your comparison of life to the bee colony! Rainey, your drawings are so lovely, you have so much talent, girl! And I really, really love going to Rainey Days and finding a new story!!!!

  2. Amazingly, I have been very much aware of the bee situation. It was a real problem several years ago in MT. As is always the case, I learn so much more from my brilliant grandchildren. Thank you Rainey dear. So happy no lives were lost.! The analogy was perfecto Mom. I knew you were writing.

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