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Honey, behold the bee

All abuzz over urban apiaries

By Carolyn Pogue

I stand in awe, listening to the gentle bee symphony, watching them enter the hive, legs bright with pollen. I’m in the backyard of Sharon and Doug Woodhouse, new honey farmers in Calgary.

Sharon and Doug have joined the movement to help bees help the planet. Pesticides, insecticides, climate change, chemically altered crops and mites are challenging bee populations. And this, of course, challenges life. We depend on bees to fertilize vegetables, trees, crop — everything. So this Thanksgiving, I’m especially grateful for urban farmers, farmers’ markets, community gardens, slow food outlets and people involved in greening sacred spaces.

And I’m grateful for Eliese Watson. Eliese is an educator and founder of Apiaries and Bees for Communities (www.backyardbees.ca). This summer, she’s been buzzing around teaching sold-out apiary classes, rescuing swarms of wild bees at the request of police, speaking in coffee shops and connecting with community gardeners, local farmers and school children. All tolled, she helped 28 fledgling urban honey farmers, including the Woodhouses, set up apiaries.

Doug built a window in their top-bar hive, so it’s possible to view the action. The beauty of the perfect wax combs and the amazing bee social structure make human cities seem chaotic, dirty and disorganized.

After meeting Eliese this spring, I’ve thought often about bees. I learned that a teaspoon of honey represents 25,000 bee trips and that their range is up to five miles. Whenever I saw a bee, I paused in gratitude to watch it. I’ve always bought local honey when I travel so that I can taste the land; now I do that with reverence. I reread Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees and loved it even more.

Throughout history, bees have sweetened our lives. The Bible is full of references, from God’s promise to the Israelites to give them a “land flowing with milk and honey,” to the sensual references in the Song of Songs, to John the Baptist’s diet of locusts and wild honey. Proverbs 16:24 gives food for thought: “Kind words are like honey — sweet to taste and good for your health.”

Honey with hot lemon is good for a sore throat. Honey also soothes a baby, helps arthritis, aids digestion, relieves insomnia, is an antiseptic and speeds our body’s healing inside and out.

This year, a jar of Sharon and Doug’s honey is in my Thanksgiving cornucopia. I’ll light a beeswax candle on my Thanksgiving table, and I will pray for bees.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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