Every season the bees have incredible wisdom to share and the fall is no exception. A honeybee colony’s primary goal in the fall is to do everything they can to help their colony prepare for winter survival. Each and every bee has her vital role to play and each role has a lovely piece of wisdom for us to glean.
Stocking up on the sweet stuff…wisdom from the forgers:
A forging bee’s sole mission from early spring to late fall is to gather as much food as possible in order to build up their food stores for winter – the rest of the colony is desperately depending on their diligence. The forger bees instinctively know that once the weather turns cold enough and the flowers die back, there will be no access to food outside the hive for many months and the colony will have to survive on whatever they were able to put away.
Bees collect both nectar (which they turn to honey) and pollen (their protein source). In order to survive the winter the bees need at least 65-80 pounds of honey. If a hive is strong it may produce quite a bit more. To give you an idea of just how much honey that is, 65-80 pounds of honey is equivalent to 5-6 gallons worth of liquid volume! As beekeepers it’s vital that we check to see if the hive is collecting enough food. If they are coming up short, some beekeepers choose to feed their hives with sugar syrup and pollen patties to help them along. However, sugar syrup is not a perfect substitute for the far more nutritious nectar and ideally a hive is strong enough to collect what they need without artificial intervention though this is not always the case.
As a beekeeper I love connecting the task of checking the bee’s honey store to a personal invitation to check in on our own metaphorical “honey” stores this time of year. To ask ourselves if we have gathered the resources we need? Do we have access to the mental, emotional, and even spiritual nourishment that will carry us through a tough time, the way honey stores sustain a hive through the trying winter months? If you feel you are coming up short, what can you do to top off your stash? What type of intervention does your Inner Hive require, so to speak?
(I created a tool to help you check in to see how your own personal “honey stores” are fairing. Check out my free worksheet “How Full is Your Honeycomb?”, which you can download from my website here: https://caitlinbosshart.com/life-coaching/ (scroll to the bottom of the page.))
Removing the harmful, the unnecessary, and sealing up the cracks…wisdom from the janitorial bees:
While some bees are forging many others are ridding the hive of anything that does not benefit or promote the health of the colony as a whole including: dead bees, dirt and debris. Others are taking sap collected from trees and turning it into “bee glue”, known as propolis. Propolis is used to seal up the cracks and crevices in the hive, to help keep out the cold and all unwanted intruders over the winter months. Propolis also has antimicrobial prosperities.
I find this to be a particularly powerful aspect of the fall energy in the hive, the idea of clearing out what no longer serves us and making sure not to let anything unwanted in, as we prepare for winter. I invite you to take a few minutes for a brief visualization:
Finding a comfortable spot, and begin to focus on your breath. Allowing yourself to be full present for a few moments. Visualize your body has a beautiful bee hive, your organs and tissues all made of sweet smelling honey comb. Imagine your blood cells transforming into honeybees all tenderly caring for your body’s every need. Feel the happy, gentle hum and vibration of you Inner Hive. Allow your attention to focus in on the janitor bees, the ones removing the harmful, the unnecessary, and the dead from your Inner Hive, what is it that they are carrying out? What are the harmful thoughts, limiting mindsets, draining obligations, unnecessary items and even people the bees want removed from your Hive? Turning your attention to the bees armed with propolis, sealing up the cracks, what is it that these bees are trying to keep out of your Inner Hive? What boundaries are they setting – with what, and or with who?
This fall I have had a strong urge to deeply clean my house, to go through my things and pass along anything I no longer need – feeling it’s important to not be trapped inside all winter with anything that drains my energy. Along with cleaning out my physical space I’ve uncovered thoughts and beliefs that have been weighing me down that interestingly are tied to many physical objects. So often our external environment is a mirror for what is happening within us. If digging into your thought patterns feels daunting, your home is certainly a great place to start, even a single drawer at a time and you will undoubtedly feel the difference.
Caring for your tender parts…wisdom from the nurse bees:
Even into the fall the Queen Bee continues to lay eggs, to bring life into the hive, though her laying does begin to slow. After the eggs are laid the nurse bees tenderly care for the young. At this point in time, what are the vulnerable aspects of yourself that need additional care and attention?
Abundance and scarcity, gratitude and letting go of the excess:
Fall for the hive has an interesting juxtaposition of both abundance and scarcity. In the fall, the honey stores within the hive are literally brimming. As beekeepers, fall is the time we get to harvest honey from our hives (as long as the bee have more than enough to spare). This is a fun and rewarding process, though a lot of work. When I think of honey harvesting as a beekeeper, how can I not have a profound sense of gratitude to the thousands of bees and flowers it took to produce the honey? It’s a lovely reminder to acknowledge the abundance in your own lives and also appreciate that when we harvest honey, even when the bees have plenty of food to over-winter, we are causing the them to feel a sense of scarcity. In a metaphorical sense as a beekeeper, harvesting honey from the hive could be seen as the removal of excess but in reality we are not the only force at play causing the bees feeling of scarcity as outside the hive the bees know their source of pollen and nectar is becoming less and less as the natural world begins it’s transition into a winter hibernation.
Again it’s important that we take advantage of opportunities to fill our own internal honey stores, to savor and appreciate abundance of all that is available to us now, while acknowledging the natural cycles of life, that abundance will surely wane, challenging us to find contentment in having, enough. Where in your life do you mistake the removal of excess as scarcity vs. true scarcity? How can you prepare for the external scarcity, by once again ensuring you have what you need within?
The bees’ cautionary tale…wisdom from a tattered bee:
Though the fall is a time of almost frantic activity for the colony, the change in the weather also forces the bees to slow down. Bees can’t leave the warmth and safety of their hive when it’s below 50 degrees outside. Fall rain, and snow, interrupts fall forging, forcing the bees to retreat into their hives and temporarily cluster for warmth, (much like they do in the winter months) until the weather warms once again, for them to resume fall forging. This is much like the way cooler weather entices humans to shift to quieter activities than the summer tends to encourage. Fall begins the transition into winter quietness and deep reflection whether we are ready for it or not. (You can read about Winter in The Hive: Wisdom from the Bees to Your Inner Hive here)!
Despite the bees forced “down time”, you may notice the bees looking especially ragged this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I also feel a bit ragged by the end of the summer. If you look closely at a bee, you may notice her damaged or torn wings. An individual bee aims to visit as many as 2,000 flowers a day ( visiting anywhere from 50-100 flowers in a single forging round-trip). A worker bee can fly up to 15 miles per hour, flapping her wings about 12,000 times per minute just to keep her body now with a stomach full of nectar and pollen held in “pollen basket” on her back legs, in the air.
In their desperate quest to help their colony survive the winter honeybees wear out their bodies in the process and often push their luck forging too late into the day and get stuck far from her hive as the temperature drops quickly on fall evenings, her body becoming too cold to fly home.
On fall morning I often discover frosty looking bees still clinging to flowers from the night before. Chances are, as long as it didn’t get too cold that night, the bee is still alive and she just needs some help warming up. I have learned if you breathe on a very cold, seemingly dead bee, she will slowly warm up, begin to move her antenna appearing to have magically come back to life. (The photo below is of one of those frosty fall bees. She was weak and tired from her night alone on the flower so I gave her a small drop of honey to drink to regain her strength.)
Almost every teaching from the bees is a positive one, but in this case, it’s important we learn from the bees, how to not to run ourselves ragged simply for the sake of others. While in one way, a beautiful example of selflessness and working for the greater good, it is simply not sustainable for the individual, no matter how much others stand to benefit. Whether it’s our clients, co-workers, family, friends, or causes close to our hearts, there will never be an end to what others will accept from us, as long as we are willing to provide it. So, it’s up to you to know your limits and to kindly set boundaries. Remember to look after your wings, repair and care for them when they get tattered. Allow your self to be re-energized, so you can offer your best.
Fierce protection…wisdom from the guard bees:
For the bees, an equally important task to gathering food for winter, is the vital task of protecting their precious resources from thieves. Bees become increasingly protective and aggressive toward visitors, fiercely guarding their honey stash. Bees must continually fight off other insects, (mostly wasps) and bees from other colonies who try to steal their honey. As you can imagine, bees are also not particularly happy when beekeepers come to collect the excess honey stores for themselves. As humans we sometimes forget, bees do not produce honey for us.
Along with this protectiveness, is the awareness that resources cannot be spared to any bee who is not carrying his weight. A honeybee hive is made up primarily of female worker bees. Male bees known as drones are only reared in the spring and summer if they colony as enough resources to spare. Drones sole purpose is for mating with queens of other hives, they do not have the ability to forge or assist the colony in any way. They don’t even have stingers so helping protect the hive is also out of the question. Drones also require a huge amount of food to sustain them, and come late fall, the drones must go. The worker bees literally kick the drones out of hive. Worker bees can been seen dragging drones out of the hive. If the worker bees don’t kill the drone before he’s carried out they will pull of the drone’s wings and dump him outside so they can’t fly back in…harsh? Totally, but also necessary for the survival of the rest of the colony.
While fall is a time to fill up our honey stores, to think about what you no longer need in your hive, it’s equally important to begin to thinking about unwanted intruders, attempting to drain and stealing from the bank of resources you have worked hard to collect. What are you are not willing to give up any longer? What necessary resources need to be protected? The bees remind us to adopt their fierce protectiveness and to set boundaries around your precious resources, be it your emotional energy, time, money, etc. And here is what you must remember, it’s necessary for your health, your wellbeing, and your whole Inner Hive.
As a life coach I work with multi-passionate people, who know they need to make a change in their lives but are overwhelmed and agonizing over how to make the right decision. The pressure to follow a more conventional path, and “pick one thing” weighs on them but not as heavily as their desire to live a more authentic life. As a life coach and multi-passionate myself, I understand the unique challenges they face. I help them sift through the confusion of social expectations, many possible paths, and inevitable self-doubt, so you can embrace who you are and make decisions that are fulfilling to your unique multi-passionate nature.
Learn more about what I do at caitlinbosshart.com !