A Prayer for Bees

“When I add a spoon of honey to my tea, I give thanks to a dozen bees for the work of their whole lives.  When my finger sweeps the final drop of sweetness from the jar, I know we’ve enjoyed the nectar from over a million flowers.  This is what honey is: the souls of flowers, a food to please the gods.  Honeyeaters know that to have a joyful heart one must live life like the bees, sipping the sweet nectar from each moment as it blooms.  And Life, like the world of honey, has its enchantments and stings….”~Ingrid Goff-Maidoff  “The Honey Sutras”

My kitchen is situated in an imposing brownstone building in Midtown Atlanta. The entire space has no external windows and is lit by a battery of florescent lights so bright there is no concept of night and day. The elements – cold, sunshine, rain, wind – are kept safely at bay by steel, concrete, electrical wiring, pipes, polished glass and automatic doors.  The architectural design of my workplace even extends to the trees, shrubs and flowers that dot the entrance, all securely ensconced in concrete planters and miniature paved islands.

But Midtown has a secret and as all secrets should, this one is hidden from public view.  Not many people know, tucked away in the middle of this bustling business district, high above the sidewalk and pedestrian view is a small terrace on my building. This in itself is inconsequential, more important; this terrace is home to a small chef’s garden and four honey bee hives.  It’s a breath of fresh air for us cooks, a sign of our determination to connect with what’s fresh and growing outside.  It’s also a statement that as cooks we understand the importance of bees for sustaining agriculture. There would be no fruits or vegetables without the hard work of the honeybee – the great pollinator.

Ever heard of Colony Collapse Disorder? Honeybees are disappearing, and it is a serious issue.  This disease is responsible for the deaths of 30% of our honeybee colonies every year. The plight of the honey bee rose to national prominence in late 2006 when the disease was at its worst. Since then media coverage has shifted in tandem with the short attention span of its audience to cover more sensational news. Bees may no longer be newsworthy but it doesn’t mean we have forgotten about them.  The opposite has occurred, people are more aware than ever about bees. The crisis has helped us understand the importance of pollinators to our diet and environment.  We can all help by planting more flowers for bees to feed on and keeping pesticide use to a minimum. If we all actively participate, these two actions will help in restoring a healthy, vibrant, honey bee population. It’s as simple as that.

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