167. Mystical Bees - Jacqueline Freeman and Susan Knilans
Are honeybees tiny mystics? What do they have to teach us?
Does conventional beekeeping have it all backwards?
Is beekeeping as we know it actually harming bees and our entire ecosystem?
Susan Knilans and Jacqueline Freeman are beekeeper pioneers who have tapped into the mystical nature of the honeybee. They have co-authored the new book, What Bees Want: Beekeeping as Nature Intended. This conversation is less about the practical application of beekeeping, and more about the dynamic between humanity and the honeybee. There are frankly very shocking realizations in this episode about how harmful conventional beekeeping is for bees! Which is really difficult for me to hear considering I have been beekeeping in the conventional way for two years.
If you are not a beekeeper, I strongly encourage you to listen to this episode anyway. There is so much expansive information provided by the guests which goes way beyond beekeeping. Like the honeybee itself, this conversation is multidimensional! Here’s a breakdown on what we talk about:
- How Susan and Jacqueline got into bee centric beekeeping.
- Micheal Joshin Thiele’s episode
- How Jacqueline receives transmissions from the bees, which contained knowledge she didn’t previously have.
- What is the difference between conventional beekeeping and a bee centric approach, and what is the difference in behavior between bees who are kept each way?
- The consciousness of bees, including their ancestral memory.
- How to keep the hive healthy, naturally and holistically.
- How can you help bees, even if you aren’t a beekeeper?
- The sacrament/medicine of honey.
[00:00:25.790] - Kara
[00:00:26.420] - Kara
Thanks for listening. I invite you to check out my website, Karagoodwin.com. I'm adding more resources all the time to assist you in your meditation journey. Sign up right on the homepage to receive a free ten minute guided meditation that will fill you with light and peace and give your nervous system a reset. You can also find powerful offerings to help you start or amplify your existing meditation practice, including the Meditation Immersion Program to get a solid foundation to your meditation and the Healing Hearth ongoing program for regular online meditations and guidance. Thank you so much for your support and enjoy this episode. Hello and welcome to the Meditation conversation. I'm your host, Kara Goodwin. And I'm so excited today to have Susan Nylands and Jacqueline Freeman on the show. So Susan and Jacqueline have just released a brand new book called What Bees Want Beekeeping As Nature Intended. And I am reading this book now, and it is just this gorgeous book. It's full of amazing insights, amazing illustrations as well. But Jacqueline and Susan love their bees so much that they spend hours each day observing and interacting with them. And in their beekeeping, they adopt a very Bee centric approach where they strive to keep the environment of their hives as similar as possible to what bees prefer in the wild.
[00:02:03.180] - Kara
And their latest book chronicles their wisdom to help beekeepers keep their practices as beneficial to the bees as possible. So even if you're not a beekeeper, you may be a regular listener to this program and know that I have a couple of hives. I'm very interested in this topic, but I think that even if you're not a beekeeper, you'll still find this interesting. I was very moved by Jacqueline's earlier book, Song of Increase. And, Susan, I know you also had a heavy hand in that one, and it really explored the mystical nature of bees and their multidimensionality and how we are all connected to each other and to nature. So having read that book and experienced that spiritual uplift that it offers, I invite this talk to be a mix of practical advice for beekeepers and also highlighting the magnificence of the honeybee and some of the things that they're here to help the planet and humanity with. So welcome, Jacqueline and Susan, it is really an honor to have you here today.
[00:03:11.010] - Kara
It's great to be here. Thank you.
[00:03:13.210] - Jacqueline
Yes. Thanks for the invitation.
[00:03:15.160] - Kara
Absolutely. So I would love to just start with getting a sense of how you got to where you are now, because people who are listening may think like, well, yeah, aren't all beekeepers keeping the Bee in the center of their practice? And it's surprising that this is actually kind of an alternative way to keep bees. And we can get into that more over time because you guys are pioneers, really, I mean, at least the way that I see your practices. So where did your B interest start? Let's start with Susan.
[00:03:50.070] - Susan
My interest started when I came to the Northwest, and I knew that I wasn't going to be doing serious wildlife rehabilitation anymore.
[00:03:59.630] - Kara
Where did you come from?
[00:04:00.980] - Susan
Where did you come from? I've been a Gypsy. I've lived everywhere, but I came from Indiana.
[00:04:07.350] - Kara
[00:04:12.130] - Susan
I'm thinking, well, I want to be involved with nature and animals in some different way, and I don't know what that will look like. And I saw an Advertisement that Jacqueline was having for a retreat with Mikael Tealey called something like The Sacredness of Bees or something. And I thought, oh, well, my mom always told me I was allergic to bees, but I pretty much never listened to her anyhow. So why don't I go and try that? And I came home after two days, just like a zealot. I brought home old pieces of very old broken comb and was showing up to myself. Look Michael work and Jacqueline's was amazing.
[00:04:57.530] - Kara
And Mikhail has been on the podcast, too. I'll put a link to that.
[00:05:02.140] - Susan
He's a wonder. And so going there and just being told, let's just be with the bees. Well, okay. And then having the bees come out to visit with us and circle around us is like, this is a different world. This is a different world I've never experienced. So thank you, Jacqueline and Mikael. That's how I got started.
[00:05:25.570] - Kara
Oh, beautiful. And how about you, Jacqueline?
[00:05:28.610] - Jacqueline
I think Susan and I met about ten years ago. I've been working with bees for 20 years, and it just started out. It was before bees became popular, so there weren't a lot of options for learning about bees. I had a girlfriend who her next door neighbor had just bought land and they found an old Beehive in the backyard. And the people didn't want it, so they asked if I did. We have a farm, although it was very, very beginning days of it. And I said, sure, bring it up, put it here. And I had no idea how fascinated I would be by them. I was just every day I went out dressed in my B suit, looking like just sat next to them with a chair next to the entrance and just spent literally hours every single day. I had no idea why I was so drawn to them, but I sure was. I did go to B school in B school. I remember every day for two days just going, that's not something I'm going to do. It was all around maximizing honey, minimizing swarms and natural keeping methods. It was all about putting chemicals on your bees.
[00:07:00.200] - Jacqueline
And it was kind of just around the time when we were really being inundated with varroa mites and stuff like that. So it was kind of an open territory as far as how to deal with them. But essentially it was chemicals. And I was like, well, I have an organic farm. I can't do that because everything on the farm is organic except bees. So I had a ton of questions, and I had nowhere to go. There were no really good books out about how to do natural beekeeping. There were certainly no classes in my area or beyond. And I remember asking the bees, saying, I want to do right by you, and I don't know how to do that. And I would literally talk with them. I would say, you're going to have to teach me how to do this, because I don't know, but I don't want to screw it up. So help me out.
[00:07:53.300] - Kara
And I did.
[00:07:53.970] - Jacqueline
I just sit next to watching them and talking to them. And I went for years just doing that, just trying to listen to my intuition about or look at some practice and say, now, is that something I can really stand behind? And so many things I didn't know what to do, but I knew that the process that was being done mainstream was not what I was intending to do. It had a lot of things that I just knew were not right. Anyway, after a certain point, I started one morning getting some information just kind of passing through me, and I wrote it down. I had a notebook, and I wrote it down next to me and was surprised to find out that this information was something that I didn't know the day before. It was like a transmission, and I had a whole bunch of those that happened, and I wrote them all down. Or my husband helped me write them down so I could pay attention to them, and I didn't know what to do with them. I was teaching classes by then on winging it and trying to come to me as eccentric as possible and kind to the bees.
[00:09:06.110] - Jacqueline
And Susan showed up at one of my classes, and I mentioned that I had all this information, and I didn't quite know what to do. I hoped it would turn into a book, but I'd never written a book before. And then I think I gave you some stuff to take home and read. Susan, if I remember right.
[00:09:24.710] - Susan
What was really funny is she handed me this few pages of writing and said, I would like to write a book about this. And she sent it out to all of her friends and said, can you give me some guidance? Or what do you think about this? Or blah, blah, blah. And then she wrote me back and said, all of my friends said, go for it. That's great. And what I sent her back was, who is your audience? Is this a book about teaching about how to care for bees, or is this about bees themselves? What are you really wanting to say? And this might be a way to organize it. She said, you were the only one who came back with any ideas on how you would actually do this. And that's because I've written five other books. I was like, yeah, I know how to do that. So Jackal and said, do you want to help me with this? And what can I pay you? And I said, your class is free to me. That's all because I figured in working on the book, I was going to learn scads. And I did.
[00:10:40.940] - Susan
Yeah. Jacqueline would have these writings. And I'd say, what do you think this means? What do you think is happening here? What do you think would happen if we did this? Or do you think maybe the bees might mean this or clarify this? I don't know what this means. And so it took us about a year or so.
[00:10:59.000] - Jacqueline
About a year.
[00:11:00.080] - Susan
Yeah. And I would like to go over to the farm and stay for a couple of days at a time. And we just work and talk and write. And I pass stuff to Jack. And I said, here's some pieces. Take a look at them. And then she'd go, oh, I can work with this, Andrew.
[00:11:15.640] - Jacqueline
So easy. Once Susan got involved, she would say, this needs a story. This needs some background information. It was like I just felt like I was plugging stuff. It was essentially written. It just wasn't I had to fill it out. Yeah. It wasn't in the proper order for a book. And that was what really helped me to do, was to put a structure underneath the content that was Grace of God. I'm so glad you came to that class, Susan. That really made a difference. When I up until then, all the information that I had, it was kind of like it was like a globe. Nothing was chronological. It wasn't on a straight line. It was that this related to this, that had influence on this, that related to that. And I remember saying to my husband, I don't know how to write this because there is no sequential activity. Everything is related to everything else. Everything is related to everything else, right?
[00:12:17.110] - Kara
Yeah. And it's a beautiful product. So you guys did an amazing job. The output is fantastic. And the person who recommended Song of Increase to me is not a beekeeper. So I met her on a spiritual retreat, and we passed some hives, and I mentioned or I had a Bee necklace on or something. Somehow it came up that I was a beekeeper. And she's like, oh, my God, have you read Song of Increase? She's like, I really want to keep bees. But I don't. But this book is amazing. So it had really touched her, even though she's not a beekeeper. It's really beautiful, as is what bees want. Really amazing books. So thank you so much.
[00:13:00.590] - Susan
We kind of decided to do what bees want because we realized that after Song of Increase, there were a lot of people saying, how do you do this? And after we went to Europe and met people who were doing all kinds of different ancient natural beekeeping things. And we had a chance to meet and get to know Tom, Seeley and Torbin and all of this information we never heard. And it was like, we're doing this. We're doing this. We were right.
[00:13:39.490] - Jacqueline
It was so confirming because there was nothing in America that we were seeing was it like, Jeez, we're really divergent in a big way. And then we got to all the Slavic countries in Germany and France and England and all these countries, Portugal had beekeepers that were doing bees the same as we were doing them, but they have history behind them that we just sort of stumbled into it.
[00:14:06.130] - Susan
And then so between Tom and Torbin and then all of these ancient ways between Zidlers who are tree beekeepers and people that were doing skeptics and people that were modifying hives so they would look like logs but would be lighter and all these different ways. And then we were there for two days, and I said, Jacqueline, I will never have to question the way that we keep bees again. Not only is their history behind us, but all the science is behind us. We were on the right track. And so whatever the bees told Jacqueline, it all ended up being proven to be correct down the line. It's like, Holy cow. So it was like a watershed moment.
[00:14:53.560] - Susan
Oh, wow. That's amazing. So as we've been talking about, your approach is very minimalistic in terms of intruding on a hive. So tell us why that is. We talked a bit about that, just wanting to keep it as close to the wild as you can. But if you have anything else about why that approach and then also some of the differences between the eccentric approach versus conventional.
[00:15:25.010] - Jacqueline
Well, first of all, if you go to Beeschool in America, you're pretty much taught to inspect your hives, do hives inspections. If you don't do it every week or two, you're a bad beekeeper. And, of course, we have the complete alternative approach to that. From my understanding, I worked directly with the bees. These ideas pop into my head when I'm working with them, and I assume that that comes from the bees because it's often about things that I didn't know.
[00:15:55.870] - Kara
[00:15:57.310] - Jacqueline
One of the things about it, well, they're interesting because it isn't like I can sit down and ask a question and have them answer. It doesn't work that way. What they give me is information at the time, and they feel like that was an important piece of information. But something else, maybe I'm not ready to hear the answer yet, so I've put questions out there, but I don't always get answers. Susan, did you want to add anything to that?
[00:16:27.310] - Susan
I wanted to say that one of the things that I have noticed over the years is that in keeping bees this way, firstly, if bees wanted you in their hives, most people wouldn't have to wear a hazmat suit to get into the hive. It's very clear that they don't want our intervention and that our intervention is not helpful. So Jacqueline and I don't intervene much at all. I don't think I ever opened my hives. Once the bees are in them, the bees are in them for as long as they are. What we've noticed now is when you keep bees like this, these are no longer the same bees as they would be in a Langstroth thin box with none of these additional helping elements for them. So the bees are more stressed when you go near them. They are angrier. They're working very hard and don't want you in their way. And I just tell people, my bees just aren't like your bees anymore. We don't need gear much. Our bees land on us all the time. We collect swarms without gear. We just work with our bees in a way that's so relaxed and happy with them that they're just relaxed and happy with us.
[00:17:58.010] - Susan
They don't use smokers.
[00:18:07.170] - Susan
If the bees are upset and the swarm hasn't consolidated, well, then we don't go grabbing them. We like, wait, we wait, we watch, we listen, and we work with them. So that way we're able to put our hands right inside of them and they're happy. It's like they're fine, we're fine. Everybody's relaxed. And I have a beef friend who lives over near Jacqueline who actually ships his hives down south for the Bee, migratory almonds and all that. Whenever I come into his Bee yard for something, he says, well, don't you want to put on a soup? No. He said, I don't get it. But I'll go there and he'll lift up a hive, and I'll put my nose and I'll go, Hi, Hello. And he said, they don't bother you. And I said, It never occurs to me that they might.
[00:19:07.750] - Jacqueline
Yeah, that's the difference is that we're being respectful. I see on these lists that I'm on a bunch of beekeeper lists, and I'll see, oh, my bees were really angry today. I took the top off and they flew out and they stung, and I had to go. And I think that's a message. And you don't have to be too smart to get the message. It's like dog comes out and bites, you know, and you don't know what they're doing inside the hive. There are some delicate operations there's. Moments when a new developing Queen, for example, is actually suspended by a little mucousy thread for a while in her development. If you open up a hive and clang boards around and all that, you could break that little thread and she's dead in the hive then. So that would be a time when the bees would go, no, stay out there. We're saying this, but I can't even remember the last time I went in a hive. It's been years, really, because everything I need to know, I can see outside. If there's pollen coming in, the babies are there. They're being fed. I don't have to go into the brood nursery and break it all up and have a look and go, yeah, they're there.
[00:20:27.900] - Jacqueline
I know they're there. You can see by the quality of the flights. You can see by the nature of their temper. You can tell by the ease of their movements, how they're interacting with each other. Are they on alert? And if they are an alert, what might be the reason for it? You get to see all kinds of different things. I was down in Dominican Republic, and I got hired by the USDA to go down and work with rural beekeepers, old school beekeepers, and Mikhail Tilly, I invited him to come with me. So the two of us went. We had a time when someone said, We've got a hive, and, oh, they're just terribly cranky. And we're thinking of actually suffocating the hive, killing the hive because they're just so awful to be around. And we went over there, and I did put on a Beehat because they said, they're going to sting you like crazy. And I'm unfamiliar with this hive. So Mikhail and I went over, we looked, and Mikhail kind of went underneath the hive. It was on a stand about three 4ft high. And he said, oh, look, this is interesting.
[00:21:39.010] - Jacqueline
They have an open bottom because it's a Caribbean warm weather area, but the bees have been filling it all in with propolis. So instead of it being a ventilation area, they're actually making it a solid area. In the meantime, I was on the other side of the hive, and I said, oh, this is interesting. They put it up against a tree that had a forked limb at the bottom. And inside the forked limb was a very intricate Spider web, like a three dimensional Spider web. And there were little bees that were flying back to the hive. They got caught in it. They got caught in the hive, in the web. And then they were going, Help me, help me. You could actually hear the sound of, like, be in trouble. The bees in the hive were hearing this. I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble. Help. Something awful is happening. And they were actually trying to close over the bottom so that it would make the hive itself, the colony, safer. I was like, there's nothing wrong with these fees. They're on high alert because there is danger next to the hive. You need to do two things.
[00:22:44.260] - Jacqueline
First of all, take down the web and get it out of there and do that every morning until sometime in the next few days. You can move this hive, I'd say 20ft over there and do it incrementally so they know where the hive is. And I heard later that that fixed it.
[00:23:01.850] - Kara
[00:23:04.350] - Jacqueline
That's a matter of observation. That hive would have been put to death, right? No one taking the time to look, and Mikaela and I were able to go, oh, there's a reason for this, as there always is.
[00:23:18.240] - Susan
Right in my Shiver tree. This last spring, I've got a Shiver tree. That's something that Torban is developed, and it mimics a lot. I've got one in my front yard. Swarm went in. They went in early in the season, and in six weeks, they started to swarm because if they build up fast, six weeks and then you've got swarms. So it's like, okay, so I watched one go out, I watched another go out. I watched another go out, and I watched another go out. And at that point, then I knew that they were done. And I started watching at the entrance. And at the time that the fourth group went out was when all the pollen quit coming in. And I knew that, okay, they'd sent out their main Queen. They'd sent out several virgins. Whoever the Queen was who was left in the hive didn't make it. And so I knew that immediately. I never saw pollen going in again. And I knew within a couple of weeks of just watching, I've lost this hive because I know enough with RVs that I have tried in the past when I was more conventional or just learning to on a hive like that, can I introduce a new Queen?
[00:24:38.990] - Susan
And in hives that seem more natural, my hives won't take it. It's like we won't accept a new cream. We would rather perish or wait for another swarm to move in and help out or something, but we will not accept somebody who's not related and is just stuck in. They just wouldn't take them ever. But it was like the minute I saw it, when the pollen stopped, I knew like that, yeah, to craft her.
[00:25:09.310] - Kara
And that's another difference is the swarming. That's a big difference. So I've been beekeeping for a couple of years, and I came up the conventional route. So I'm in the process of switching and trying to relearn and unlearn. But I've been taught, like, do everything you can to prevent a swarm.
[00:25:35.150] - Susan
[00:25:35.800] - Kara
And it's the opposite. So can you go into that, like, why it's important for the swarming?
[00:25:41.230] - Jacqueline
Well, swarming is a natural activity. And anytime you remove a natural activity from I don't care what kind of animal it is, if you remove it from them, you essentially change who they are and the bees in a swarm, what happens? I'll just give a little bit of history of why swarming is important in the first place. Swarming is how bees, how they create another colony. So one colony becomes two colonies, two colonies becomes four. And typically, well, when a swarm happens, it means there's enough success inside the home of the hive that they've got extra. And so they'll lay a few Queen eggs and Queen will be born. Who's going to replace the old Queen that's going to leave with her swarm. So on swarming day, oh, my God, it's so incredibly exciting. I've seen so many swarms and there's a signal, and they all come out, all the bees that are going to take place, and it usually would be anywhere between ten and maybe even 30,000 bees come out. And I've been right next to the hive when you see, like, someone just gave the signal and they pour out of the entrance of the hive like water in a waterfall, and they just come out and come up into the air.
[00:27:08.000] - Jacqueline
And depending on how many there are, they're all moving around, and the volume of the space just gets bigger and bigger. It might be like 30ft by 30ft by 30ft. And I can stand right in the middle of that hive and think of this. So let's say you've got a moderate size swarm of, say, 15, 20,000 bees. 15 or 20,000 bees are flying around in this 30 foot sphere, and nobody is bumping into each other. I mean, think of the consciousness that colony has to have to be able to fly without. I mean, think of it if we're humans and you put that many of us in that small area and said, now go fast, right, would just be nuts. Chaos. And it's not like that. The other thing I want to mention about it having been inside a swarm so many times, there's this jubilation, this joy that you can just tell there's this extreme happiness of them doing it. One of the things that I got as information from the bees in Song of Increase was about storming itself. They said, typically in normal beekeeping, conventional beekeeping, well, this is a big mess.
[00:28:37.750] - Jacqueline
This is how a beekeeper would think of it. Like, first of all, I'm going to lose half my colony, and that's going to be less honey, less workers, a financial loss. So that's one reason. But also there's the chaos of it, which I think kind of freaks them out. And if it's in public, people get scared. They think these are going to come attack. That's like the last time in the world they'd be thinking of that. There's no reason to attack because there's nothing to defend. They're outside their home and they're heading someplace else. They're heading to a new home. When I asked about the importance of swarming, when I asked the bees directly, that was one of the pieces of information they gave. They said, if you prevent swarming. Well, actually, let me say this a different way. When I was asking conventional beekeepers, why do you prevent swarming? They said, no, actually, I'm saying that backwards. There's a process in conventional beekeeping where each spring you replace the Queen. And this is one of the things I learned in conventional B school. And I said, replace the Queen. But I've read that Queens can live five, six, seven years.
[00:29:50.310] - Jacqueline
And they said, no. Every year the Queen becomes infertile after the first year. So we have to take the old Queen out, pinch her, kill her, and then replace her with a new Queen. It's young, vibrant, and has fertility. And that was the thing I asked the bees about. I said I'm not fond of Bee killing. So what's the deal here on killing Queens? I mean, I didn't sign up for that, and I'm sure I'm never going to do that. They said what happens in swarming is that the Queen comes out. She's the last one out. When you have the chaos of the hive, the colony just all in many directions all around. Then finally the last and biggest, the Queen comes out and she flies in the center of the swarm with them to their new home. When she does that, up until then, she's been inside the hive that whole year, and she's in darkness. She lives in darkness. She doesn't come out and forage for food or gather pollen. Everything is done for her. Her role. She's fed and watered and cleaned and she lays eggs. That's what her job is, her fertility.
[00:31:06.210] - Jacqueline
The Bea said that what happens when the Queen comes out is she's exposed to the light of the sun for her flight. And that turns on her hormones again. And the hormones allow. Now, you just had that AHA moment, didn't you?
[00:31:21.610] - Kara
[00:31:22.710] - Jacqueline
And it makes such perfect sense. She comes out of the sun, her hormones turn on. It rekindles her fertility for another year. So when you swarming, when you stop swarming, the Queen doesn't come out and get her fertility woken up again. And the conventional beekeepers are right. The Queen is not fertile anymore. She has to be replaced. I wouldn't be replaced. I'd say you have to let them swarm so that the Queen can maintain her fertility.
[00:31:53.190] - Kara
Yeah, well, and you mentioned you're helping the population of bees across the planet. So rather than containing and making, like, massive, more honey.
[00:32:06.030] - Jacqueline
More honey, more honey.
[00:32:07.060] - Kara
Exactly. That's the big difference between the two approaches is like the honey yields. It's all about the honey yields with the conventional I think that the way to put it is to say.
[00:32:23.790] - Susan
For conventional beekeeping, they look at the Bee, bees are looked at, and the conventional honeykeepers say, you work for me and Jacqueline, and I say, we're working for you. What do you mean? That's the difference.
[00:32:42.030] - Kara
I have experienced this in my own shift where it's like the way that I was taught. It was like I had to find the dominance. It was like, okay, how am I going to make them think that I have control here, which is a tall order when you're dealing with bees? And then as I've started to embrace this approach, it really is this like, listening and this Communion. How can I understand what you want and how can I help you? And it's amazing. And one of the things, Jacqueline, when you are talking about the swarming and how there's this chaos, but it's not chaos. There's this intelligence and there's this consciousness. And when Mikhail was on, like, a year ago on the podcast, he talked about the apian being and how there are these individual bees, but they are all part of this big mammal, this apien animal. And that's what that made me think of. It's like, yeah, the consciousness. It's one consciousness that they're all tapping into, that they're all sharing, which is a symbol of this bigger thing that's going on here that we are all a part of, too. And that's one of the messages of song, of increase that I took from it, too, was just that underscoring of how it's like a representation of a much bigger thing that's going on.
[00:34:18.150] - Susan
There's a real knee jerk reaction about swarming in conventional practice. And it's like, if you let your swarms go out, all your neighbors are going to hate you. You're not a good neighbor to do this. And I've been collecting swarms in my city. I've named myself the Chemist Bee Lady, and everybody seemed to believe it. And so calls come in anywhere in the city, and I'll go out. Swarms are the most beautiful teaching moment because you go out there and the people see me show up in a tank top, shorts and barefoot, and I'm kind of working my way up to the tree, and I'm, like, putting my hand under the bees. Are they settled? Are they calm? Are they resting? Do they get loud? How are they doing? And then when the bees really settle, I'll invite people over and say, you can touch them. They're as warm as kittens. And the people will say, really? Really? And they'll come over and everybody wants to do phone pictures of them with their hands on the bees. And then they share it with all their friends and go, the bees are really cool. They're friendly, they're born as puppies.
[00:35:33.340] - Susan
And those moments, people will never see bees the same again after that. So the baloney about all your neighbors are going to hate you. It's like, no, the bees are out there to teach, and I'm out there to help them teach.
[00:35:46.950] - Jacqueline
[00:35:47.880] - Kara
Wow. Yeah. That's amazing.
[00:35:50.420] - Jacqueline
I love that.
[00:35:51.290] - Kara
It's making me want to go. And do I feel like this is the year I'm going to expand into swarms. I have avoided it the last two years. It's a big, steep learning curve. Again, like I said, I feel like I'm relearning everything, but let me make it easier for you.
[00:36:08.270] - Susan
[00:36:08.540] - Jacqueline
Because I kind of made that transition to first of all, when I started getting swarm calls, people knew I did something with these, so they were swarm call. It's not that I knew a lot about it. It just kept happening. So I did, and I moved and touched hundreds of hives by swarms.
[00:36:27.300] - Susan
[00:36:34.270] - Jacqueline
Let me mention one thing. I want to go sideways for a minute. When I hear people talk about bees a lot, I hear them talking about the importance of them in our food production, that they pollinate two thirds of the foods that humans eat. And without these, we'd be all stuck. I kind of get a little plugged in on that because these are not thought of as value in and of themselves. I don't care if they are pollinating my food. Of course I want pollinated food. I want to have mangoes and apples and blueberries and all that. Of course I want that. But that isn't the reason that they're valuable. They're valuable because they're in and of themselves, little beings that have tremendous consciousness and do so many more things that help the world itself. I would love to take these out of the category of these working for us and making our lives better and have it be the other way around. These are here because they have tremendous value for a bazillion reasons in the world. Even the thing like the sound of them, the sound in the landscape, does something to the world.
[00:37:52.030] - Jacqueline
Things that you don't normally think of. And I've come to understand is true. The difference between these two books. Song of Increase is the first one, and then what bees want. This next one is in Song of Increase. I was hoping to explain why bees are important and in what bees want. This is the how, how to do it. So that's the distinction between the two books is and this is how you take care of bees in the way that's the most becentric. Okay. I went off on a tangent. What was the question I was answering?
[00:38:35.930] - Kara
I think you were talking about you were about to talk about swarms. So Susan had talked about the community and the swarms.
[00:38:43.770] - Jacqueline
So, yes, thank you. So in the swarm, every time I got a swarm call, I think, first of all, it's a time when bees are in danger, because I remember one time driving down my road and a swarm had just landed on a tree by the side of the road. There was a long front yard, and there was a kid who looked to be about 1012 years old with a can of raiding the tree. My heart fell just like, no, this is the point where I was looking at this is our culture. We've made such a mistake that this kid, who knows nothing other than what he's been taught. This kid thinks that bees are so dangerous that a swarm, one of the most peaceful little beings you can find, was dangerous and should be killed, poisoned. Anyway. That just breaks my heart. In the swarming. Initially, I would go to prevent stuff like that from happening. I would go and rescue a swarm, and a lot of times they were rescued. There'd be someone standing there on the side with a camera raid in their pocket. If you don't get them I'll be your backup.
[00:39:53.060] - Jacqueline
It's like, no, we're fine. The way Susan and I do this now is I don't collect forms anymore, and you can jump right to this step. Okay, put homes up for them.
[00:40:10.770] - Kara
Once you talk about this in the book, and I find this completely fascinating that you called it like bait at Bay hive.
[00:40:20.190] - Jacqueline
We put them out, and Scouts are going out before the swarming. The Scouts are going out and looking around for Where's my new home going to be. And then they find one of the many different kinds of hives that we put out. They go, Whoa, this is a great place. And I've actually seen times when there's Scout hives from different hives finding the same bait hive and going, no, this is mine on the front porch there. But no, it's mine.
[00:40:48.750] - Kara
[00:40:49.950] - Jacqueline
Going in the right direction when many bees want these empty houses to become their new homes, right?
[00:40:57.780] - Kara
Yeah, that's wonderful.
[00:41:01.110] - Susan
Another thing that I've discovered that's surprising to us, given the scientific literature and Mikael would give you the same explanation that generally prefer to be about a quarter mile away from each other. They don't set up housekeeping close in. And my experience has not been that I live in a city yard in a small town, so I can't spread my hives out a quarter mile here and there. And I'll have bees move into one hive, and then another swarm of bees will come and move into a hive 20ft away. So I'm thinking that the swarms that I've had that I haven't caught, that have just gone off way up into the Hills. They all know that these hives are still here. There's this ancestral memory of going back to the places where you were and say, okay, here's one, it's empty, it's loaded. And so there's this, like, now over all these years, there's this coming back to this place that's familiar and comfortable and has had good accommodations. So I think the bees know every available cavity in their two mile area. They've checked them out, and they kind of know ahead of time.
[00:42:21.550] - Kara
So if you keep putting hives out there that are well insulated and have some honey in them and evidence of old bees, Mikhail told us. And so I've actually got a box of this. Now that the most attractive thing in a bait box, in a box that you're trying to attract these to is wax moth poop. No kidding. So I always keep like, I have this box of old comb that I leave outside. And months later, if you go in and look what it looks like is it looks like charcoal colored sand. It's about that texture, too. And if you take a handful of that and throw it into a bait box, the bees go, wax mods. This has already been cleared out. Wax mods have been here. Bees have been here. He said, keep that stuff. It is like gold. So when you put the hives out there, we're experiencing that the beaches.
[00:43:24.300] - Jacqueline
If you were going to say this to anybody who is a conventional beekeeper, they say you're introducing wax moth comb to nuts. But if you think of it from the bees perspective, they have these interrelationships, the relationships with other insects. And the wax moth is one of them. The waxmath job is to take old comb and reprocess it, chew it up and eat it so you can open up a wild hive and look in there. And, yeah, there'd be some wax moth down here. In conventional beekeeping, you would, of course, kill that stuff, get them out of there. But they're fulfilling a role. They're cleaning up old comb that's of no further use to the bees. They don't come into the center of the hive and do it. They do it on the peripheral edges. And it's not frequent either. It's just when needed, they come in and do that. That's learning to respect a relationship and understand that this may look like, oh, there's bugs in my hive. I have to get rid of them. It's like, no, these are just other workers helping work on something that needs doing.
[00:44:32.910] - Susan
[00:44:35.430] - Jacqueline
Give them opportunities to have homes that have many different kinds of native, natural little insects and beings in there.
[00:44:44.960] - Susan
[00:44:46.180] - Susan
That's beautiful. A Beehive is truly a village. Michael Bush says there's 40, 00, 80, 00 different critters and organisms living in a healthy, driving hive. And so he said, why would I poison any of these? They're all important. Some are certain bacteria, certain yeast, some are certain other kinds of chemical substances. And there's tons of critters in all my hives. I have wax Moss in them. I never think twice about them. Now, if you've got a box where the bees are really struggling, then the waxmaws might be taking over. But bees don't struggle. In my small hives, everything is there for them so they can keep the wax moth population under control. Now, if I grabbed a deep and put it on top, well, all that wax moth patrol would go right out the window. It's like, no, we can't even deal with that. We just have to build. And so when you end up with hives being overtaken by yellow jackets or wax mods or hive beetles, it's generally because the hive can't be strong or they would be able to manage all that. These aren't invaders. These are symbionts, or they're giving you an indication of something about the hive.
[00:46:12.770] - Susan
They're all pointing to something about the hive. And if you have a hive taken down by yellow jackets, Mikhail Tilly will be the first one to tell you that they're not a natural enemy of the honeybee. A comfortable, strong hive will have no problem defending itself.
[00:46:33.260] - Kara
Okay, so that's news to me.
[00:46:35.390] - Susan
Yeah. And I have never lost a colony to yellow jackets. I've seen yellow jackets all around the bottoms of them kind of working the deadbees and stuff, but they're not in there and they're not crossing the borders on a healthy hive. If I owe to kill them all, no, I just got to watch my hive and make sure the hive is great info.
[00:46:59.490] - Kara
Thank you. Okay, so is there any low hanging fruit per se for beekeepers who have a conventional approach and maybe are being inspired to do a more Bee centric approach? Any kind of easy first steps to begin that new relationship?
[00:47:18.190] - Jacqueline
The health of the hives is really our primary focus, and we want that to happen naturally. We don't want that to happen because we did a big course of antibiotics. We want that to happen because the structure of their home itself lends them to being the healthiest they possibly can be. The forage around the area. We can be responsible for that, too. I'm lucky enough to live on a farm, and we actually do plant forage on a large scale. I'll put in a quarter acre of sunflowers to get the loom and the season. That's right. Low hanging fruit. I'd actually say I like to invite people who are not beekeepers to play on this, too, because forage is so important. Flowers just need flowers. And the best flowers to plant are always the ones that are going to Bloom in your weekend season. So I live in the Pacific Northwest. We've got spring covered. We have such warm, wet winters that spring just blooms like crazy. Early summer, tons of Bloom. Late summer. We get into a bit of a drought. Late summer, early fall. There's not nearly as much food available then. So that's what I Gar all my planting flowers to is what's going to Bloom in August, September, October and give them a good start.
[00:48:42.170] - Jacqueline
So wherever you live, planting good, healthy flowers that are good pollen sources is probably the most basic thing you could do.
[00:48:51.310] - Susan
Now, I would say for low hanging fruit, if you're a person who's got Langs and you got a bunch of them is take one deep and two mediums. Put the medium on the bottom and that's your Echo floor. Fill it full of garden junk so all the little symbiotes can have a place to be. Ant, nest, spring tail, leaves, everything, leaves, whatever. Put it in there.
[00:49:18.080] - Kara
And would that be actually on the ground?
[00:49:20.500] - Jacqueline
No, that elevated.
[00:49:21.650] - Susan
It never on the ground. Not here in the Northwest, never up. Bees would never nest in the ground. They nest with a solid bottom, like in the Rockies. Solid bottoms, 3ft high.
[00:49:34.930] - Jacqueline
You don't see them in the wild in West, I think it's 20 years. Once I saw a wild hive that had a very low entrance in a hollow tree, and I suspect it was just the entrance that actually the hive itself is probably a good deal higher. Every other one I've seen has some height off the ground.
[00:49:53.530] - Susan
So basically all you need is an open bottom on your deep, and then you just set your medium under it with the detritus in it. And we also recommend I know that nobody else recommends this, so this is pretty controversial, but no frames. The bees are not appreciative of frames. The frames totally destroy their ability to really control the heating and cooling inside the hive, because those empty spaces on the side, that's like a wind tunnel. So the bees can't section off private rooms, which is how they live in a normal hive. They can protect. In fact, I've even been reading lately Where if there are sick bees in the hive, they will actually have quarantine areas in the hive Where those bees can be, and they're sealed off. So you put the medium on the bottom above it, you put sticks.
[00:50:50.950] - Jacqueline
When you say detritus, what that means is broken up sticks and leaves and kind of the things you find on the forest floor. Yeah, go ahead.
[00:50:59.590] - Kara
And then a landing board. Right. Or the bottom line.
[00:51:02.610] - Susan
They don't need it. What we do is we have discovered that Yellowjackets and other critters cannot easily Pierce what we call the B gauntlet, which is a little three or four inch piece of bamboo, about an inch to an inch and a half diameter. And we'll drill a hole in the hive and put that in. Any invader is going to have to pass through this constant gauntlet of bees that are coming and going, and they can never breach it. Yellow jackets form can't breach that. There's always bees in it. So we just pierced it with that. And I don't need landing boards. I just watching the bees on the face of the hive, and they kind of start moving, like in a spiral toward the entrance. It's a very different kind of a look, but it's a small entrance hole, and that's all they need. They need more ventilation. No, they need to maintain their ventilation. The more holes you have in the hive and the longer slip bottom, the more work they have to do, the more work they have to do to keep the heating and cooling the way that they need it.
[00:52:10.860] - Susan
So on the top, then you've got your little Echo floor with all these little symbiots living down there happy. And then on top of your empty deep, you would put a nice piece of, like, cotton canvassing or something. And then on top of that, you would place your second medium and in that second medium that's now separated with this nice piece of stiff cloth. Or you can even put strips of wood to even support that cloth not going down any further. Just a few strips of wood across the top to support the canvas. And then there goes the medium. And the medium gets filled with either straw or wood chips. So that makes it so that there will never be cold condensation water falling down onto the heads of the bees they're able to maintain and cool. And then on top of that, you would put some really solid top, like inches and inches and inches of wood for insulation up there along the top, and then need to find some way to insulate that whole box. Now, for myself in a Lang deep, I would also put thick triangular pieces of wood in the corners because air doesn't move well through those corners.
[00:53:40.960] - Susan
Bees don't work in corners. Nature doesn't do a lot of square spaces. Things are curved or rounded or buffed. So I would put those triangular pieces so that the inside of the hive will look a little bit more rounded so they can move the air the way that they need it and then just let them build the Combs any darn way that they choose.
[00:54:04.510] - Kara
And if you don't have a deep, I've got a lot of mediums. Would you think two mediums in the place of a deep or just one medium or deep?
[00:54:14.470] - Susan
The deep is going to be the body of the hive. I would stack like, do three mediums make a deep?
[00:54:26.090] - Kara
I think it's two, isn't it?
[00:54:28.160] - Jacqueline
It's two alternative forms for so long, that hard for me to remember these now.
[00:54:39.670] - Kara
Well, thank you for that.
[00:54:41.070] - Susan
That's an easy way to do it. You've got the Lang, you've got the mediums. You put some strips of wood across super insulate that box, whatever way that you know how if I were doing something like that, what I'd probably do is I take a Lang deep box, and then I grab a single box off a worry hive. I stick the Ware hive inside the deep, and I pack straw all around the side. And then I've got my super insulated hive, and then I have my little bamboo tube that just goes right to the two of them. And then you go from there. So, you know, it's just I lived on a sailboat for a couple of years. So when you're on the boat, it's like, I got to make this. I got to fix the sale. I have to put up some kind of a win thing. We need this. And it's like, well, what's here? And then you put it together from what's here? And you can put together a marvelously serviceable hive from pretty much whatever you've got in your backyard.
[00:55:42.850] - Kara
Right. Wow, that's fantastic info. Thank you, Susan. So let me flip that question. Are you still okay on time?
[00:56:04.840] - Susan
[00:56:05.970] - Kara
Okay. So are there any big nos that people take for granted? So either from a beekeeper perspective or from, like, a Bee lover gardener perspective, sure.
[00:56:18.810] - Jacqueline
This is kind of a potent one. Don't take honey. Everybody thinks the reason that most beekeepers get into keeping bees in the first place is to take the honey. But what I understand is they build up their honey stores, and what happens is a beekeeper will say, wow, it was a great year. I had tons of honey in the hive, so I took a whole bunch of it and left it up for the bees for the winter. But what we don't count on is the fact that the bees have an understanding of this year was full. It was easy. There was lots of pollen, there was lots of flowers. Next year may be different. It could be dry, it could be too much rain, it could be fires. And when you take honey, you're not allowing them to plan for the future. So it's kind of like, you know, the checking account goes longer than just a week or a month or a year. And I want to encourage the bees to have as in the wild, that they have access to their stores for the next five years. And I think that's really important.
[00:57:26.630] - Jacqueline
People say, well, you're a beekeeper and you're not collecting any honey. How's that work? There are always going to be hives that fail. So I have never had a loss of honey. Sometimes the hive fails, and I say, okay, that'll be a hive. I take some honey from frankly, I'll be honest with you. I usually split it into cutting up some of the comb in case I ever needed in an emergency to give back to the bees and some of the honey I get to save myself. I don't eat nearly as much honey as I used to in my early days because I try to treat it more like it's a Sacrament. It's something that these worked so hard to make this that I should be more appreciative of it than every day taking a spoonful and putting it in my hot tea. It's just the way that I've evolved over the last 20 years to understanding that it's not all about me, me, it's about us.
[00:58:23.010] - Kara
Yeah, it's a dichotomy. It's a paradox because the honey is so beneficial, there are so many health benefits, and the same with propolis.
[00:58:33.450] - Jacqueline
I'm glad you're saying this, because you can also understand that it's more valuable to my body, that if I eat it, I take the moment to be in great gratitude for it and say thank you. This is healing medicine for my body, and I so appreciate it rather than the heaping spoon of honey in my tea every day that I just drink because it's sweet. And that's fulfilling.
[00:58:58.110] - Susan
I don't think of honey as a sweetener. I think of it as medicine. And if everybody just took honey as medicine, there wouldn't be a problem way before we ever kept bees in hives. Originally, bees were kept in walls of houses and huts, and there would be a little indoor door. And if you needed a comb of honey for something, you open the door and you snap off part of a honeycomb and you close it. You don't like take the whole hive down and harvest the whole thing. You take what you need. If you need some propolis, you scrape it off. If you need some wax, you pop off a wax comb, but you take a little, but you leave mostly everything there for the bees. It wasn't industrialized. And when we started to industrialize it, that's when bees started failing and kind of in our culture pretty much when we industrialize anything, that's when everything starts failing. Right?
[00:59:57.110] - Kara
[00:59:57.920] - Susan
That's it. Maybe we shouldn't be machine makers.
[01:00:04.170] - Susan
Right. Working more in cooperation with the planet, for sure.
[01:00:10.010] - Kara
[01:00:10.670] - Kara
So what about you, Susan? Are there any nos that people may just totally take for granted, even as a gardener or as a beekeeper? As a Bee lover.
[01:00:20.850] - Susan
It'S just a big no no for me. It's got to be pesticides. The last three years, I've lost almost all of my hives during the winter. And what I believe is happening is something has happened here. And I have some new neighbors somewhere that are doing some spraying at some point, I think. Okay. During the summer, my bees are coming back, maybe slightly marginalized. They're collecting nectar. Now that is maybe less than optimal. But they only live like five, six weeks. During the summer. They're living through that. It's during the winter when the honey is in there and they're supposed to try to last for five or six months, their life is much longer. I think I'd lose them to pesticides over the winter slowly because I'm not losing them to mites. I go through the Combs and I look. Are there obvious signs of my contamination here? And usually almost always it's like no. So it's like no. The hive goes into the winter strong and their stores are strong. And then by mid winter, when they've lived a good couple of months, then they'll start to fail. And I think that's because something's happened with the forage on my Hill and they're able to make it for their few weeks, but they're not able to make it through the whole winter with that amount of toxicity.
[01:01:46.450] - Susan
So people may say, well, I don't spray my flowers, but I spray my lawn. You can't spray anything. You just can't do it.
[01:01:58.160] - Jacqueline
People don't realize it's not just bees that are damaged by that. I was just listening to Doug Talamy's lectures. He's talking about how many caterpillars a baby bird needs to eat daily, like 30 a day, depending on the kind of bird. And that means when you find caterpillars in your garden, this is bird food. This is like really important. Stop trying to kill everything and let nature have their menu. What is the statistics these days on the dearth of insects in the world? Wasn't it something like three quarters of the insects in Germany? Was it? I forgot.
[01:02:43.050] - Susan
I'm not sure. But the most recent statistics I've heard worldwide is a good 35% drop overall in all insects. And many insects are now on the endangered species list because a lot of it.
[01:03:00.520] - Jacqueline
I believe, is really this what seems to be an innocuous amount of pesticides. People think, oh, that won't matter. It's just my little garden. But it is. It does matter. Everything touches. Everything else.
[01:03:16.830] - Susan
Well, there's this goofy little meme out there that I read that really cracked me up. It shows up on gardening sites. And if something's not chewing up your leaves and flowers, then your yard is not part of the ecosystem. And that's the truth. If nothing's being nibbled on, you don't have a lovely space. You've got an artificially created bunch of something that's not helping the world. I mean, aesthetically, it might be nice, but then you'd be just as good to put out plastic flowers and plastic plants as to spray them to the point where no bug is going to touch them. And then you let your kids and your pets walk through that and brush past it on their clothes. I just saw a big article for Roundup showed up on my TV screen yesterday and like, oh, it's so safe and it's fine for your pets and family. And man, it'll really keep the weeds out of your lawn. You can just pray. And I'm thinking, oh, they should have a split screen that's talking about the incredible billions of dollars that are going out to payments with people with cancer now. And they said, and you don't even have to have been working with Roundup in a commercial setting.
[01:04:35.810] - Susan
This is people spraying in their backyards are winding up with Lymphoma is one. And I forget what some of the other ones are, but it's like, how can you be advertising? This is perfectly safe when you're being sued all across the nation for people dying for spraying this stuff. It's a crazy world.
[01:04:57.450] - Jacqueline
It's revealed that over 40% of all insects are declining and a third are endangered. That's heavable.
[01:05:06.150] - Kara
[01:05:10.830] - Jacqueline
Million species are facing extinction in the coming decades, half of them being insects.
[01:05:18.670] - Kara
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for this discussion. I hate to leave it on that note, but can you each tell us how people can find out more about you and your offerings? Do you have any lessons coming up? Are you doing anything online where people can learn, like the class where you two met?
[01:05:44.950] - Jacqueline
Our website is whatbyeswant.com and there's a really nice set of actually a lot of the stuff we talked about in more orderly fashion. So you can look at the twelve tenants of Beekeeping and things like that, where it goes into, like, what is in short pieces. What is in the book is on the website with pictures. Susan and I each have our own individual websites. I have Spiritb.com and I have a newsletter that you can sign up with and that will keep you apprised of any classes that we are doing. Susan, why don't you give yours?
[01:06:24.010] - Susan
I have two websites. One is Susannylands.com and that's where I just do a lot of my more nature and spiritual writing with a Susan with a kiln with a Kyle.
[01:06:40.090] - Jacqueline
[01:06:40.540] - Kara
And I'll put them in the show notes too and then I've got American skeptic which is on blog spot so people are encouraged to go there if they want to learn how to weave and what it looks like to keep these in straw.
[01:06:56.770] - Kara
Wonderful. And do you have any classes coming up?
[01:07:00.400] - Susan
No. Right now the book is just out and we're just kind of planning kind of what to do next. There's a list of podcasts and things coming up and things like that.
[01:07:16.090] - Jacqueline
I've got about six or seven different things I'm doing in different countries but they're all being done by Zoom. Normally I would have my passport in hand. Yes, not quite yet. But anyway, there are classes coming up with different organizations and interviewers Susan. We should just try and keep that on our website.
[01:07:37.240] - Susan
Yeah, do a page on that so people know who's talking where and when and you can do the same thing.
[01:07:43.260] - Jacqueline
Send us your link and we'll post it there as people can come and look at it. Yeah, absolutely.
[01:07:48.040] - Kara
That'll be great. Wonderful. Well, this has just been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for being here. I so appreciate your time and all the wisdom and everything that you're doing for bees and for nature and for the planet. Really. Just thank you so much.
[01:08:07.150] - Jacqueline
[01:08:07.920] - Susan
It's our joy. Thank you.
[01:08:11.050] - Kara
Please share this Episode I appreciate your support rating, reviewing and sharing so thank you again for listening and I look forward to the next meditation conversation.
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