The Coming Swarm
There’s a buzz in the air — a persistent hum that represents an intensity of activity that belies the relaxing feeling the sound can produce.
It’s the bees. And this is the time that things are getting a little hectic in the hive. Spring has sprung and the bees have been busy — collecting pollen, making honey, reproducing, and with all that activity and productivity, the hive has become a very, very crowded place. Perhaps too crowded. There is too much buzz and activity to be contained in this hive.
Or maybe the bees have awoken to discover that their food supplies are no longer able to sustain their community. Things change while honeybees are clustering around their queen in the hive, living off of their honey and engaging in a unique set of behaviors designed to keep the queen warm during the winter months. But if key pollinating plants aren’t available, or good sources of water, life in the hive can quickly deteriorate.
Whether there are too many bees or too few resources, the energy of the bees in the hive can no longer be sustained by the hive, and so there is only one solution
It is time to swarm.
Like everything bees do, swarming is a group effort, and everyone plays their part. The workers who tend the queen will start dancing around the queen more emphatically, preventing her from laying too many more eggs. They will create special queen cells, so that the eggs she does lay will be for a new queen to take over the old hive. The workers feed less of the royal jelly to the queen so that she will fly more easily. When the queen cells begin to hatch, the worker bees will make the decision.
The workers around the old queen will begin to press her to leave, and so the queen will fly out, with half the bees of the old hive in tow. She won’t fly far, only to a place where they can rest so that scout bees can go out and find a new hive. The rest of the drones and the workers will cluster around the queen, fanning her, keeping her cool after all of her exertion at flying even such a little way. The scouts may take a few hours, but soon enough they will find a new home for their family. They will guide the queen to the new location, where the workers will busily set about the business of building the hives, the combs. Of collecting the food and making the honey and storing it. Of tending the queen and carrying messages back and forth. The hive is always busy and making something. Its energy continues, it buzzes on relentlessly.
Bees are most likely to swarm around this time of year. And this time of year is Beltane. Energy always begins to hum and buzz around Beltane. And sometimes that energy is more than we can handle in our current state. In order to thrive, we must grow. We must take the steps that let us grow, that let us build a life big enough to contain the buzzing hum of life within us.
Swarming is not safe or easy. The queen, the drones sand all the workers and inhabitants of the hive are at risk when the decision is made to swarm. When they leave the hive and take up temporary residence waiting for the scouts to find a new safe home, the bees are exposed, and because they are out in the open, clustered together and buzzing in a most unusual way, they seem threatening. Although swarming hives really don’t pose a threat to humans, that doesn’t prevent people from trying to mess with them (usually to their detriment). The timing of the leaving must be precise. The scouts only have so much time to find a new place for the bees to live. The queen must be able to keep her workers together and on task. Ask anyone who keeps bees and they will tell you — a swarm is a beautiful, but delicate thing, one that is both serendipitous and inevitable, powerful and fragile.
Reaching a new home, using all that energy to build to the next level. These are some of the things that Beltane is for. The air is abuzz with possibility. What will you use it for? What is the next phase of your growth going to look like? How will you marshal the resources at your disposal to make it work?
Blessed Beltane, y’all.