These recent years have been a rollercoaster, haven’t they? From running out of toilet paper and dousing groceries in Lysol in early 2020 to deep political divides, climate-related catastrophes, and just far too many Zoom calls, it’s been a bit surreal.

But through it all I’ve found solace in the simple act of working my bees – of lighting the smoker, prying a lid open with a hive tool, and inviting myself to these amazing little parties going on round the clock in each of my hives (and thankful for no “social distancing” required among my bees in the apiary).

I’m a “sideliner” beekeeper with over 100 hives, meaning that beekeeping is an income generator for me, but working with bees is more than just a revenue stream these days; working hives has been my connection with nature, a touchstone to the physical world, and a way to get into the present moment in strange times.

And my experience is not unique according to a recent article in Taylor & Francis Online about the benefits of beekeeping to mental wellbeing during times of trouble.

“Keeping bees can help the economy, provide a great sense of community, and can teach children about the value of nature,” the study’s author Karin Alton writes. “Bees are fascinating to study, and for many people being part of a natural process in which honeybees pollinate flowers and crops, and create delicious honey, is deeply gratifying.”

Alton goes on to cite the experience of many beekeepers who’ve found comfort in the world of the hive through the uncertainty of a pandemic. 

For me, every hive is like a Christmas present, and I hope I never lose that sense of wonder at seeing what’s going on inside. And working my bees is a form of mindfulness practice. I don’t have to sit cross-legged or do some strange chanting to get there; I just have to get my nose into the bees and I’m drawn into their world — instant passport to the here-and-now!

And mindfulness practice is more than just a buzz word these days, but a real going concern in mental health and overall wellness. Apparently getting “present” in the moment pays dividends and my bees help me get there.

So I’m grateful for my bees — for the challenges when they struggle, for the bounty they provide — and most of all I’m grateful for their great example of working together and giving of themselves wholly to something larger. That’s what it’s all about!