When I was 12 years old I got my first job as a teacher’s assistant in the Summer Nature Discovery program at Newlin Gristmill Park. I assisted my mother who taught 4 and 5 year old children about wonderful things like trees, butterflies, frogs and honeybees. I knew a lot about honeybees by then, but each summer I vicariously relived the wonder of learning about them for the first time through the children. My favorite part was learning about the honey bee dance. If you don’t know about the honey bee dance, the worker bees actually do distinct dances to show the other worker bees where to find nectar. At the camp, we would have one of our selected “honey bees” hide a jar of honey from the rest of the “worker bees” and then they would have to do a dance to clue the other bees as to where the honey was hidden. It was precious.
In my childhood backyard there was a huge colony of honeybees that inhabited an old hollowed-out Ash tree. I remember sitting at the base of the tree and watching them buzzing around up there. One late summer afternoon, after a vacation at the beach, we arrived home to a loud droning sound of what seemed to be millions of bees buzzing around our playground. There was a massive clump of bees forming at the high end on the underside of one of our see-saws. The colony had out-grown the tree and now had to split into 2 separate colonies. I watched in fascination as the beekeeper collected the swarming colony to transport to his farm. The sound and the imagery remains so vivid in my memory.
My fascination and love for honeybees has not died down, but rather matured. I like to learn about how my own lifestyle may impact honeybees. If you have not heard, honey bees are in crisis. They are experiencing colony die-off at unusually high rates. There are wonderful documentaries out there about this phenomenon. One of my favorites is “Queen of the Sun”.
Another documentary I watched recently is called “More Than Honey” In this documentary you learn about the exploitation of bees by the food industry. There is a huge honeybee industry mostly in California. Companies farm enormous amounts of honeybee colonies and then transport them to various orchards during flowering season so they can help pollinate the trees. It really was quite heartbreaking to watch as the honeybees were let out to pollinate and the pesticides were being sprayed all over them. Trust me on this, if you watch this documentary you will never eat a non-organic almond again.
Here’s something else I’ve learned about honeybees recently. The neighborhood I live in has a large amount of rooftop beekeeping. It turns out that this particular neighborhood in Philadelphia produces an exceptional amount of honey. The reason is that this part of the city has a condensed area of old growth trees which honeybees love for pollen and nectar sources. In particular, they love the flowers of Tulip Poplar Trees.
I also learned about and started using this eco-friendly product made by Abeego more recently. It is a sustainable, reusable, food storage wrap made of bees wax. It works really well and has a naturally occurring honey smell. Lovely!
All of my fascination and wonder lead to a new series of paintings inspired by honey bees. This past weekend I put my honey bee necklace on and got to work on the series.
I am not certain if the series is done yet, or if it will call for another painting in the future. This is my first series of paintings. I hope to partner with a foundation for part of the proceeds from the sales to go honey bee conservation and research.