By now, there are many bees in Copenhagen, you see them in parks and window boxes and in the roadside scrubs, everywhere you go. One day in July as I was walking in the inner city, I heard this unmistakably engine over the noise of the traffic. It was bees on flow on a long avenue of linden. I experienced the same thing in the early spring on a willow tree on the Amager commons and later under the maple trees in my parent’s garden on Fyn. I love that sound. It is joyous hours, when I can place myself in the intensity of it and then just stand there, and stand, or maybe take pictures, if I brought the camera.
It is weird that it is calming, when you think of the wild activity that is surrounding you, there are 20.000 or maybe 100.000 bees on a flow in a willow tree and they are all moving their wings approximately 240 times a second. But it is, and I know that to others passing by on that linden avenue, I was probably standing with a slightly foolish grin plastered on my face and an absent expression in my eyes. I did not really notice them, so I could not say if they too were aware of the cause; but I see a bee or a flow, the head tilts a little to the side, and then I listen. I do not know exactly what I am listening for, but something – undefined. I think this pose is a characteristic among beekeepers from all over the world. You can ask their next of kin, if you know any. I am sure that there will be stories.
To me the sound is a major part of the attraction to bees. To stand beneath or in the middle of a flow or with the head in the hive. The joy when I open up the hive, and the sound rushes up towards me or crackles against my fingers when I am holding a bee or ten in my hands. Other times it tells me without hesitation that the checking of the hive has to be (a lot) swift(er), there are cranky* bees on the loose, too much treble in the tone, perhaps an oncoming thunderstorm and a downpour heading this way, or something else entirely. However, the hum of the bees – their electrical song – it always vibrates around them and never fails to draw me in.
I think, if you asked a beginner in beekeeping, if he or she felt an almost irresistible urge to take a chair and put it and themselves next to the hive, and, ehm, sit, and if the person answered confirmatively, perhaps even eagerly nodding and looking relieved, (because what is actually happening to me), it would be a positive indication, that this person would be among those, who came back the following year. They might not point to the sound of the bees as the reason for their interest; it is not as specific as the honey or the endeavor to protect the diversity in nature, but the beekeepers I know – love – to be near the hives. And beside the sound there are also the musings on, what the bees are gathering, are they fetching pollen, what is the current flow, and why are they all flying east when there is a perfectly fine flowering chestnut tree only fifteen meters from their hive? The beepeople I know, in the association in Hvidovre, my beemaster Stein – and Jesper with whom I have a beeyard, the symptoms are alike. Honey is a nice byproduct, but it is WORK. The real fun, the insanely fascinating thing is the bees and their world and the sound of them, the engine, the language.
A story that begins close to the end. Hmm. Summer fades, in a week Jesper and I will take most of the honey from the bees and give them sugar instead. Then we sling it and stir the honey, until it becomes creamy; and the bees we keep on feeding, until we put the roof on the hive for the last time in September and wishes them a good winter. However, dear reader, even if this is the end of the season and the last sentence in the post, know that these words are only an introduction to a completely inexhaustible topic!
*Beemaster Steins first teaching: “The bees are not cranky – they are just lively. You see we only breed nice bees”.