It is unusual for a newly installed bee hive to swarm, and even more unusual for a new beekeeper to witness it happening. In fact, in the couple of weeks since my bees executed their escape, several people I know who have kept bees for over a decade have told me they have never seen it. Truly, it was a remarkable occurrence. I am rarely at home at midday and even less rarely sitting at the only window that would have given me the view. In truth, I was sitting on my bed, looking at this screen when my 14-year-old daughter said, “Mom, this is freaky – what are the bees doing?”
Freaky hardly described the scene which recalled for me the old Hitchcock film The Birds, except that it was bees that covered the entire sky. I was speechless as I watched them form into a cloud and disappear. It took me minutes to even put together what happened, and even longer to try to think of what to do. As quickly as the scene appeared, it disappeared and I was left wondering if I had imagined it.
At the time, I was struggling with acute menopausal symptoms and the bees’ departure felt like an extension of the total drop in hormones that had impacted all of my functioning. I was barely recognizable to myself and I remember thinking, through my grief of losing all my bees, that I would have left too if I could have. My husband tried to reassure me that bee swarms are not people, and my 16-year-old son only laughed at the suggestion.
But there was, in fact, something deeply personal going on between me and my departed bees that I had yet to understand. The understanding I was missing came from my friend Taggart Siegel, who directed Queen of the Sun, the film that inspired me to get the bees in the first place. When I shared the experience, he told me that I had witnessed one of the most magical and magnificent acts on earth: the bees are reincarnating.
I still don’t know if one of the swarm cell bees has been crowned the new queen, but I have the perfect swarm cell on my bedside table next to a small stone that is etched with the word “gratitude.” I am shopping around for a new queen, just in case, but mostly now I am moving towards gratitude again myself. I finally understood that the miraculous vision of the bees reincarnating was telling me something essential about myself and where my new biology is taking me.