Sara Kirschenbaum
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Forgive Me Mothers, For I Have Sinned

Posted Thursday, Apr 17th, 2008 at 3:37pm

I am an amateur bee keeper. And not a very gifted one. I've had bees over the years. Occasionally my bees have collected enough honey to share some with me. I used to get lots of swarms in my yard and so there was a constant source of bees.

Last year I had to stoop so low as to buy some bees. Wild honey bees are scarce now and there are no longer any swarms landing in my yard looking for a good place to call home. I had to put in an order at the bee store Ruhl Bee for a queen and about 10,000 workers. It came in an ancient looking wooden box with mesh for sides and a small cage inside holding the queen and a couple of attendants. The store gave me very minimal instructions about how to get the bees out of their mesh cage and into my hive, but one thing their written instructions specified was to "bounce" the whole wooden box "on your knee." I kept thinking of Pete Seeger and Old Susanna with a banjo on her knee.

With the help of my friend Michael, I clumsily got the bees out of the box, stuck a marshmallow in the queen cage (so it would take some time for her attendants to eat their way out) and got them all settled in for the night.

The bees did pretty good over the summer. I didn't have them in a good place however. It was pouring rain the night that I bought them so I set them up under a covered area of my yard, planning to move them out into the sun when the weather eased up. When I mentioned my plans to the bee store they told me in no uncertain terms that you can't move a hive more than 12 inches a day unless you are moving them over 2 miles. So for me to move them to a sunny corner of my yard I would have to move them 12 inches a day or drive them 2 miles away, let them get settled and then move them back to my yard in the appropriate location. Instead I just let them stay under the covered area. Consequently they did not collect as much honey as they might have (without the warm sun on the side of their hive they would sleep late). So they went into winter a little short on honey.

I was so pleased when they made it through the winter! They were doing so well - tons of brood and lots of activity. That is until I went outside to find them all dead in late March. There must have been 30,000 dead bees.

I am heartbroken! I keep hearing the word "Murderer!" in my mind. After a couple of calls to the bee store I have discovered just how bad I am; it turns out that I starved them to death! I had assumed that if they made it to spring with all the blossoms around that they would have enough food. But no, they needed to be fed sugar-water.

How do you make amends to 30,000 dead bees? Should I even be allowed to own bees again? Should I be on some terrorist watch-list, some American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bees watch-list?

Yesterday I came home from the bee store with 15,000 new bees. My son Sage has decided to take charge of this miserable situation and instructed me to buy him a bee suit, a smoker and a BOOK (Duh.) on bee-keeping. By jolly, if I can't do it, he's going to make sure that these bees are well cared for.

They are just now happily buzzing all over the yard checking out the lay of the land AND sipping the sugar-water that I have put out for them.

But I still struggle with the murder of 30,000 bees. How do I make amends to them? What should I do with their bodies? (Right now they are in the compost pile).

Then I think about our President, George Bush, and how he recently so smilingly welcomed Mr. Pope to the White House. If I am feeling so terrible about bees, how can he live with the deaths and suffering on his hands?

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