Find a hive full of tens of thousands of flying, stinging, honey-making bees. Open it up and see whats inside. The closer you look the more you will find. A bear finds brood and honey and eats. Thats all it wanted . But we can take a hive apart carefully, and observe the way individual bees interact to make a creature with 50,000 parts. Some of the bees are the lungs of the creature, they plant their feet and buzz their wings like fans in a mine shaft to bring in the good air and take out the bad. Others gather resources, or defend the gathered treasure. The workers are born, grow, work and die by the hundreds and thousands a day, the queens live for several years, and the drones come and go but the hive lives on. Any beehive alive today has been alive since the beginning of bees in the world.
Millions of flowers feed a hive. The hive pollinates millions of flowers. Their can be no honeybees without flowers and no flowers without honeybees. Beeswax is made from honey (distilled nectar) and pollen from flowers. The hive builds it's bones out of beeswax combs. It fits it's combs into the space and fills them with honey and pollen and empties some cells to raise the baby sisters in.
Scientists have studied bees since before the Egyptian Pharaohs and we have the distilled observations many generations of people from all over the world to help us understand what is happening inside a beehive. Although many of our discoveries lead to yet new questions many ingenious experiments have helped us understand how bees live. The Biology of the Honey Bee, by Mark Winston, The Buzz about Bees, by Jurgen Tautz, Honeybee Democracy, by Tomas Seeley are informative books about how bees work in and with the rest of the natural world.
Humans have taken honey from bees since the dawn of humanity. We have learned to "keep" bees. We have come to think of bees as livestock that live in boxes we make for them so that we can harvest their honey and beeswax. The Hive and the Honey Bee, by Dadant, the A B C and X Y Z of Bee Culture by A. I. Root co, The Beekeeper's Handbook, by Diana Sammataro and the soon to be published Natural Topbar Beekeeping by Heather Harrell and Les Crowder, are books that help people who want to keep bees learn the technology and language of beekeeping culture. Then there are the local details of where to get hives, bees, what flowers produce honey when in your area. Those questions are best answered by local beekeepers. The New Mexico Beekeepers Association wants to help all people in the state keep bees. We can help beekeepers find mentors and information to help spread beekeeping.
Beekeeping makes us part of the supercreature. We begin to enter into the workings of the hive. As we get better at it we learn to see what bees are doing and effect changes that are not harmful to the bees. We become aware of yet another level of interspecies cooperation where humans, bees, plants, birds, bacteria, and fungi all work to make many full lives together. Our cooperation with honeybees fills our mouths with sweet honey and bee pollinated fruit. Beekeeping lights our nights with beeswax candles, heals cuts and burns with propolis and honey, and fills our ears with buzzing and birdsong. (Bees pollinate a wild sunflower, the bird eats the sunflower seed, then the bird sings.) Beekeeping teaches us that we are all in this together.