The World of Bees

Still
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My husband and I have recently taken up a hobby that has most of our friends and family thinking we’re crazy.

Because we had wanted to keep honeybees for many years, we took a nine-week class in bee management from our local extension agency. We ordered the frames and the feeders and the protein patties and the veils—and the two 3-pound packages of bees. (You’d be amazed how quickly you’ll get a phone call from the United States Postal Service when they’ve got your bees—12,000 or so per package—buzzing angrily in their cargo room.)

The thought of all that honey was an enticing one, but it wasn’t the reason we decided to do this. Ever since my Grandpa Beyer hauled us grandkids out to the back of a field to see a hive ensconced in a dead tree, I’ve wanted to delve into the world of bees. I thought it sounded interesting, and my husband has long known that my “interesting diversions” usually drag him in, too.

It didn’t take us long to marvel at the life of the hive. The queen bee knows which kind of eggs to lay depending on the size and number of the cells her workers provide. Smaller cells provide worker bees, which are all female; larger (and fewer) cells provide the drones, whose useful lives are pretty much over after they mate with the queen. Ever after, they hang around the hive like lazy houseguests who won’t leave.

Within hours after emerging from their cells, the worker bees know what to do and in what order. They clean cells in preparation for more egg laying; they feed the queen bee; they go out looking for pollen; they protect the hive; they tend to the “brood,” or nursery. Once the honey starts to be placed in the extra cells, they flutter their wings like high-efficiency industrial fans until the honey is between 12 and 16 percent moisture, at which point they cap it with a thick wax layer. Any higher percentage and it will begin to ferment; any lower and it will be too thick to easily leave the comb.

Our instructor told us that you can set your calendar by the bees’ work. As the days get shorter, less and less activity will take place until the bees become almost dormant. However, on December 22—the day after the winter solstice—somehow sensing that the days are getting longer, the bees will once again begin their work of cleaning the hive, preparing it for another spring, hauling out the dead bees (it’s not unusual to see piles out on the snow), readying the hive for the coming spring’s nectar flow.

One cannot look at the work of honeybees without seeing the hand of the Creator. Like Job, I hear God’s voice resonating through the ages: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:4).

I fear that too often we get embroiled in trivial questions about the process of creation and evolution and what’s right and what’s not and miss the wonder of what’s right in front of us.

Our God is truly a remarkable and inventive Creator. I can do nothing but rejoice in the work of God’s hands and marvel in the glimpses God gives me of himself.

About the Author

Valerie Van Kooten is a freelance writer and a technical writing instructor for Central College, Pella, Iowa. She is a member of First Christian Reformed Church, Pella.
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