I’ve been getting philosophical about my bees and wrote a whole essay about it. I’m looking for a home Any suggestions? This is how it starts. What do you think? Does it belong in the Hadassah magazine?
Musing from the top of the food chain
On April 8, 2012, a volunteer beekeeper brought me a swarm of bees and a beehive. It happened to be the day my father-in-law died, at the age of 83 after a long battle with heart disease. All the bees needed was space, flowers, and a source of clean water to drink. I washed out and filled a blue ceramic birdbath, and cleared a space near my back fence for the beehive to sit.
Suburban beekeepers like myself are sheltering as many bees as possible, because in the farms of America, Colony Collapse Disorder is ravaging the bee population. The bee population needs a certain number of hives to maintain genetic diversity and perhaps adapt around whatever is causing CCD.
Perhaps because the bees arrived on the day of my father-in-law’s death, I started to ponder this coincidence. I remembered that his original last name, “Trzmiel,” means a type of bumblebee in Polish. He was in the American army, in 1948, when he changed it to Tramiel, and he often stressed that “miel” means honey in French.
Before long, I started to look at the bees as kindred spirits. Watching them foray out to gather nectar and pollen, I began to associate them with Jews sent to work in labor camps during the Second World War. My father, a half-brother and half-sister, my father-in-law, and my mother-in-law, all passed through Auschwitz.
After a year, it was time to check on their health and gather some honey. I borrowed a bee suit and helped the beekeeper take the hive apart, pick out three of 20 or so combs that were in there, and put the hive back together. She complimented me on my remarkable sang-froid. I had to deal with getting the honey out of the combs.
When I proudly showed a friend the honeycombs a couple of hours later, I saw only the honey. She pointed out that there were quite a few bees crawling around on those combs, covered in honey.
But I am a Tramiel, and the sight of those struggling bees shook me up. I felt sympathy for them. More–I felt guilty for taking their honey.
Honey was leaking out of the broken honeycomb and drowning the worker bees that I hadn’t even noticed. The bees stuck in the honey were struggling to escape, trying to climb out. The honey was too deep, and there was nothing they could grasp to pull themselves out.
So I rescued them, providing clothespins they could use as escape routes from the honey and a container with clean water where they could clean themselves off. Then I felt better, although—having made the mental leap to compare the bees to camp workers—I was not unable to decide if I was I the Joint Distribution Committee, a liberating army, or HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).
But do the bees I freed from the mess of honey suffer from survivor’s guilt?