Bee a Pollinator Protector!

IMG_0886These lovely little signs for your garden and yard are available at the Albuquerque Garden Center. 10120 Lomas Blvd. NE, open 9:30-2:30 M-F. Call them for more information @ 505-296-6020.

These were designed and created for our Burque Bee City USA resolution party— the brainstorm of Sally Vance, with the support of the Xeric Garden Club  of which she is a member.

To find out more about what we are doing to protect pollinators in the fair City of Albuquerque, check out the New Mexico Beekeeper Association and CABQ Open Space Division.

Like any child, it takes a village or a whole bee hive to raise up any baby bee-ing properly. Burque Bee City is in that toddler stage. We need lots of help! We need you!

We will need pollinator protectors in every neighborhood, co-op, city hall, household, school and congregation to make it a reality. Here’s a few things you can do to make this happen:

  • Become a pollinator friendly Neighborhood! Call CABQ Dalaina Carmona @ 924-3914 to find out your city neighborhood district and President. In our city you have the power to create pesticide free and pollinator habitat zones in your neighborhood. Call CABQ #311 and request a spray free zone around your house. Here’s what the Burque Bee City resolution says:

Whereas, communities have the opportunity to support bees and other pollinators on both public and private land through pesticide free zones; working in collaboration with city officials to manage and increase healthy native habitat for pollinators—including, but not limited to roadsides, medians, open spaces and parks.

  • Mark your calendars for Father’s Day to come out to the first citywide celebration of Burque Bee City. It will be held in conjunction with City of Albuquerque at Open Space, 6500 Coors Blvd. NW, June 18, 2017, 9am-2pm. Enjoy all things pollinator-friendly, which include moths, bees, butterflies, bats and birds as pollinators. Games and activities for children, music for the family, cutting the ribbon for Burque Bee City.
  • *like* us on Facebook. Go to Burque Bee City or Think Like A Bee and begin to follow us to learn more about the ways you can get involved and all things bees happening right here in Albuquerque.

We have the opportunity to make New Mexico unique with Burque Bee City. It is a first of its kind in the southwest—a New Mexico True event! We have the power to create the kinds of neighborhoods we want to live in—communities that celebrate pollinator health and create the kind of planet we want for our children and grandchildren.

For more information contact Anita @


Ode to Bees

Some weeks are harder than others.

Even as the night temperatures plunge towards freezing again,

my bees thrive and expand.

For me, nature in all her resilient generosity and reciprocity

is a testament to life.

Even when the powers of the world seem hell bent

on destroying all that we cherish as life.

Even as beauty, goodness and truth are offered up daily

on the altars of war and profiteering.

I offer a bee poem and prayer for times such as these….

(I have taken the liberty of using bees instead of birds for the first poem. I hope the authors will forgive me.)

I love to watch how bees

soar on the wind.

There appears to be such

little effort, yet such joy.

I want to become like a bee

and let my spirit soar

on the winds that are blowing through my life.

I will not be crushed against the rocks!

I will sense the rhythm, the

flow, and react accordingly.

I will trust my inner guide.

—Judith Garrett Garrison and Scott Shepherd, Prayers for Healing, ed. Maggie Oman(Berkeley, CA: Conan Press, 1977)226.

Beehive Source

Trellised womb

Mother of all beginnings

Hold me

Gather me

Feed me

With the honey-nectar

from the hive.


I will sing

The Bee-song

The long-forgotten threnody

Of praise to thee.

—Anne Baring, Prayers for Healing, ed. Maggie Oman(Conari Press, Berkeley, CA, 1977)108.



One of my favorite bee mentors, TJ Carr, an elderly gentleman perennially clad in blue denim overalls, once told me that Palm Sunday was the indicator for the beginning of bee swarm season here in the southwest. But with the early onset of a warm, dry Spring, it’s looking like swarm season has already started. What does this mean?

It means that soon you may find pulsing or resting balls of honeybees dangling in one of your flowering bushes or clinging high in your backyard trees. Swarming is the way that hives naturally reproduce. When a hive is strong enough and has a good population of bees, they will produce a new Queen. With a new queen, the old one will need to leave the hive and take half of the bees with her so there will not be queen wars or overpopulation.

If you happen to see a swarm of bees, DO NOT PANIC! A swarm of bees is very docile, as they have no hive, no eggs and no honey to protect. DO NOT spray them with pesticides! PLEASE DO call your local beekeeper’s association or contact me at 505-514-4982 and a beekeeper will happily come to collect the bees. Once collected, the beekeeper will put them into a hive and help them establish a new colony.

Beekeepers are eager to cultivate swarms since this means that a hive is healthy and strong enough to create a new hive. I was fortunate enough to catch multiple swarms last year which means my hive genetics are slightly more feral and intense this year. My hives have incredibly fertile queens and the most productive honey makers I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. It seems out of state bees are engineered to be docile, bred for beginning beekeepers.

I’d rather have a slightly hot hive. It has taught me to be more keenly observant, keeping me on my toes. I cannot become lazy. I must always think in terms of best beekeeping practices. I have learned to work “with” my high strung girls rather than forcing my way with them. I am facing multiple splits this year, and the wonderful blessing of increasing my home hives from 4 to at least 6. I will then need to put them around the city so I don’t saturate my own neighborhood with too many honeybees.

This year I’m hoping for some Very. Good. Honey.

As often happens, my mind turns to how the wisdom of the hive can help me manage my daily life in turbulent and uncertain political times. Somedays it feels like I am in the midst of a swarm of bees—a crazy whirlwind of chaos. A few words come to mind….

  • Patience.
  • Careful observation.
  • Breathe often.
  • Slow movement (to sustain energy, reduce anxiety, and allow for optimum success)
  • Proactivity (not reactivity)
  • Remain in a calm, positive mindset.

For times such as this, think like a bee. Bzzzz.



Happy Spring Equinox

I heard a good joke today.

Noah’s wife: We lost the bees!

Noah: Bummer. Did you check the ark hives?

Meg handed me the U.S. Catholic magazine with this little gem as I walked into the Norbertine Community in Southwest Albuquerque today. A monkish community—they are not cloistered, but rather deeply engaged in ecumenical work and the needs of the community. I come here for the peace of wild things, to reflect, pray and write.

In this high desert outside the city I can see the effects of decades of drought squeezing this region. The desert is clearly encroaching. Many of the native high desert plants have turned to dust and it is looking more like the Sahara. The wind piles up the sand. When I came here 15 years ago it was still vitally green this time of Spring and full of jack rabbits, coyotes, many types of birds. Today all this is shrinking. No longer are the coyotes heard. I rarely see rabbits. A solar field hugs the buildings. A tall barbed wire fence wraps around the land which once was an open field. Development punishes the fragile land in this part of the world.

 Since working with honey bees I have become more aware of the plight of native bees. The onslaught of chemicals, drought and destruction of pollinator habitat is even more dire for them. Despite my hive losses of 50% this past year, honeybees still have humans to keep them, pay attention to them, try to save them. Evidently we’re worried about the wrong bees.

There are over 4,000 species alone of gorgeous native bees in North America, which are fast dwindling. If you ever meet a native bee researcher, they are total bee nerds— more so than me, if you can believe that. Over 500 of these super fantastic lovelies are in New Mexico alone. They are all adapted and co-evolved with specific native plants—incredibly diverse and unique. Almost all are gentle and non-stinging. When we destroy their native habitat and insert non-natives, they simply do not have the apparatus to pollinate. Also, they nest in the ground. When the dirt becomes a chemical receptacle they die.

So for all you bee geeks out there, indulge yourself with the following native bee photos, factoids and the flowers they love. Marvel at their special apparatus evolved for living in  their unique local habitat (compliments of the website featuring Clay Bolt’s photography:

For those less beek-ish, just look at the picture to get an idea of the amazing planet we are dependent upon and seem to be destroying at a blind and breathless pace. Share this. Show your kids and grandkids.They’ll appreciate it.

bumble bee

Vosnesensky’s Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), San Francisco, CA

1. In the spring, a new queen bumble bee incubates her eggs in a little nest of straw much like a mother bird. By placing her abdomen over the eggs she is able to control their temperature, speeding up the development of her young. Once the eggs have hatched and the larvae have emerged, she will continue to keep her daughters warm until they are old enough to leave the nest for foraging. In order to retain her sitting position eggs for as long as possible she first constructs a little wax pot filled with sweet nectar next to the nest that she can sip from so that doesn’t have to leave her young too often.

cuckoo bee

Male Cuckoo Bee (Nomada sp), Chatanooga, TN

2. After copulation, a male cuckoo bee in the genus Nomada transfers an ‘invisibility cloak’ of pheromones to his mate that allows her to slip, undetected, into the nest of her host bee species. The entrances of solitary bee nests are lined with a unique chemical signature that serves as a type of intruder detection system for unwanted visitors. However a female cuckoo bee is able to pass by without much trouble thanks to this unique gift from her mate.

sweat bee

Night-flying Sweat Bee (Megalopta sp), Kanuku Mountains, Guyana

3. Most bees fly during the day. However a few North American species (such as a sweat bee, Lasioglossum texana) are able to navigate by the light of the moon and stars, which allows them to collect pollen and nectar from nocturnally blooming plants such as the evening primrose. Nocturnal species, such as the night-flying South American sweat bee shown here, have enlarged simple eyes known as ocelli (the 3 small eyes centered between the larger compound eyes) that help them to navigate in very low levels of illumination.

leafcutter bee

Fuzzy-legged Leafcutter Bee (Megachile melanophaea), Madison, WI

4. Leafcutter bees are raised in narrow, tube-like nests that are lined with leaves by their mother. Typically, the bees hatch from the entrance (the last eggs laid) to the back of the nest so that everyone can leave in an orderly fashion. Occasionally, a young bee may ‘sleep in’ too long, blocking the exit and causing a traffic jam for the remainder of its nest mates. When this happens, the nest mate who is next in line will give her drowsy sibling a gentle nip on the end of the abdomen as a cue that it is time to wake up and get moving.

thistle long-horned bee

Thistle long-horned bee (Melissodes desponsa), sleeping on a goldenrod

5. Solitary bees, as you might guess from their name, don’t live in colonies like honey bees. Since there is no communal home to return to, many solitary species such as the thistle long-horned bee will rest at night by clamping their mandibles onto a bit of vegetation. After finding a suitable roosting site at dusk, the bee will enter in a state of suspended animation until the next morning when the sun’s warmth makes it possible for it to fly once again. This is a trait that is also still shared by some of bees’ ancient wasp ancestors in the family Sphecidae.


A Beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus) holds a Sweat Bee (Lasioglossum pilosum) beneath her abdomen before transporting it back to her nest as paralyzed, living food for her young.

6. Which came first, bees or wasps? Many evolutionary biologists believe that bees are essentially a lineage of pollen collecting wasps that are directly descended from a group of predatory wasps in the family Crabronidae. Wasps in this family –Bee Wolves, for example– often visit flowers in search of insect prey to feed their young. The captured prey is often coated in pollen when fed to the young wasps. In the beginning this served as an additional source of protein for the young wasps but over time one or more species began to feed their young a strict pollen diet. This eventually led to the rise of the insects that we now call bees. Bees feed strictly on nectar and pollen and utilize uniquely shaped hairs called scopa that allow a female bee to collect pollen for her young.

blueberry bee

Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa)

8. Native bees deserve more credit for producing the foods that we enjoy each day. Did you know that honey bees are not always the most efficient pollinators of native North American crops such as blueberries and squash? Blueberry pollen is held tightly within the flower’s anthers, which makes it very difficult for honey bees to access it. Bumble bees and specialist species such as the Southeastern blueberry bee use a technique known as buzz pollination or sonication to release this pollen. To do this, the bees unhinge their flight muscles and vibrate them at a rapid pace, dislodging the pollen and causing it to fall from the blueberry flower onto their bodies. It has been estimated that a productive Southern Blueberry Bee will visit as many as 50,000 flowers in its lifetime, resulting in the production of somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 blueberries. Not bad for a little bee!

rusty patched bumble bee

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). Photographed in Madison, WI

9. While there are approximately 4,000 species of native bees in North America many are in serious trouble due to a variety of factors including loss of habitat and the use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids. In many cases, pesticides don’t directly kill a pollinating bee but rather do so indirectly by affecting its ability to reproduce or store body fat, resulting in a slow death. A tragic example of a North American bee in serious decline is the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), whose numbers have dropped 87% in the past 15 years. This beautiful bumble bee and other closely related species have been inflicted with an internal pathogen that was introduced into North America when bumble bees imported from Europe to pollinate greenhouse tomatoes escaped into the wild and came in contact with wild bees. Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini), a relative of the rusty patched bumble bee that has also been affected by this pathogen has not been seen since 2006.


Theres something life-giving you can do each day. Nature is ever regenerating and life affirming, so find ways to connect with her daily. Make sure to provide a water source with stones for bees to perch and sip!

When you’re setting up your bee-friendly garden, make sure to leave space for the bees to lay their eggs in and near the ground. If this sounds a little weird, welcome to the biggest myth you’ll have to confront as a self-appointed savior to the bees: honeybees that live in hives are not the ones we’re really worried about.

So back away from that image of a sad beekeeper with boxes and boxes of honeybee hives. Colony collapse disorder was unfortunate but not devastating. Those bees are employees in big agrobusiness, and they have jobs and caretakers all around the world. Entomologist Gwen Pearson points out that honeybees are “not remotely threatened with extinction” but thousands of lesser-known bee species are. You can see a list of our imperiled bees here; many are marked “PE” for “possibly extinct.”

A lot of these native bees live on their own, not in colonies, and they lay their eggs in little tunnels in the ground. The mother gives each baby bee a loaf of “bee bread” made of pollen and nectar. Since they don’t have a colony to protect, these bees don’t even sting.

So if you want to save the bees by planting flowers, these are the ones you should dedicate your garden to:  Xerces publishes regional gardening guides to help you figure out the best plants to buy if you prefer a DIY approach. Meanwhile, if you want to check the status of a random plant you’ve brought home from a garden store, check out the USDA’s PLANTS database. If your state is green, that means the plant is native there. Click on the “legal status” tab to see if the plant is on any federal or state noxious weed lists.

But there’s more to creating a bee-friendly habitat than just planting flowers. If you spray pesticides on or near the flowers, the bees are once again in danger, so you need to be aware of what you (or your lawn service) is spraying. Xerces would like you to sign a pollinator pledge swearing that you’ll lay off the insecticides, and that you’ll grow plants that nourish bees and other pollinators (like butterflies and their caterpillars) year-round.

—The Cheerios project

Taking Care of Bees-ness

As the warmer temps crept up this past week here in Albuquerque, I began visiting my hives, readying them for the Spring bee keeping season.



Since all my ladies are flying in my home bee yard, I started with the three beehives at the organic farm in the South Valley, followed by two at my friend’s home in the North Valley. Both locations are along the agricultural and recreational swath called “The Bosque” Spanish for forest. As Burquenos we love our Bosque. It has the last vestiges of the wild in an urban area—including coyote, porcupine, skunk, migrating and nesting birds. It is one of the last cottonwood forests in the contiguous United States.

Unfortunately it is severely ecologically degraded and exposed to heavy equipment to maintain the acequias—ditches to irrigate.  Round Up is regularly used to control “weeds”, spraying to control mosquitos, and agricultural chemicals are applied along the waterways.

One by one I opened each of the five hives. Not a one survived. Colony collapse. I had hunches about what may have gone awry. I wondered whether we had over zealously harvested blackberry honey in the Spring of 2016, creating a food compromised situation for at least one hive. But several hives were heavy with honey, bees burrowed into the comb in clusters. Their soft bodies lifeless. Clearly queen-less. In some hives the bees were just gone. MIA.img_0026-1 It was a sad day as I spent the next four hours cleaning the hives, ruminating, blessing those that had brightened our days last summer and praying for the next inhabitants.

The honeybee’s business is our business. What ails them will eventually ail humans.  In response to some of my readers good questions last week about the correlation of autism to Round Up, I wanted to add a few more insights.

Dr. Seneff, at heart, is a biologist. Like Rachel Carson, biologists don’t look at any one cause, but multiple interactions between humans and their ecology. Both Carson and Seneff were able to observe how the cumulative effects of a deteriorated ecology impacted a whole array of factors —food, nutrition, disease, population, fertility. In my birth year, Carson’s groundbreaking work on DDT and declining bird populations (Silent Spring, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1962) eventually forced the EPA to ban it. It was a hard fight and Carson was slandered by Congress as a mere biologist and blocked at every juncture. She first chronicled what bee researcher Mark Winston calls “A thousand little cuts”. Meaning, in the end there is not one but multiple  factors that create honeybee colony collapse. Both have shown that a cascading series of causes can create the decline of health, and ultimately death, in any species.

Among other things, the chemical industry is driving life on planet earth to extinction, cut by cut. Dr. Winston writes…

Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.

The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.  (New York Times, Op-Ed column, 7/15/2014

This has been circulating on Facebook: “In case anyone is getting distracted by the Russian spy drama, the following bills have been introduced in Congress“….

It goes on to list House Bills that will terminate the EPA (HR 861), Wildlife protection (HJR69), gut Clean water and Air Acts, Stream protection, privatize public lands— to name a few.

Friends. In an age of massive ecological destruction, this administration is looking to set back the clock 300 years. Much like the Robber Barons of the late 19th century— unfettered capitalism makes the masses poorer and sicker, for the profit of the greedy.

Thank you to all of you who continue to stand up for that which is life affirming!


Know Thy Food

My dentist is a very well read and smart man. He and I often talk bees and human environmental toxins, since we share a passion for these things. Recently, at my regular cleaning visit, he handed me a very useful tool.

It was a PLU code guideline for reading food labels which determines whether what we buy is genetically modified, organic or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides or herbicides. Here’s what I found out (EWG/Environmental Working Group analyzed pesticide residue testing data from the USDA):

  1. A four-digit code beginning with a 3 or 4 means the produce is probably conventionally grown. The last digits of the code represent the kind of the fruit or vegetable you are buying. For example, bananas are always labeled with the code 4011
  2. If there are five numbers, and the first is “8”, then the product is genetically modified. The label on genetically modified banana (GE–genetically engineered of GMO) would contain the numbers 84011
  3. A five digit number that starts with a 9 means the item is organic. Organic bananas are labeled with 94011

If we think our bees are in trouble from pesticides and herbicides, consider the following:

In a groundbreaking 40 year study, Dr.Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gathered data, publishing over 170 peer reviewed articles, showing a consistent correlation between glyphosate (a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, universally used in agriculture and backyards)—and the rise in autism.

Today, 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the U.S., a rate that’s increased 30 percent since 2012, according to a March 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

….Dr. Seneff spoke about the alignment between the side effects of glyphosate toxicity and autism, noting that they closely “mimic” one another…since Monsanto’s Roundup became a flagship weedkiller in 1990, the number of kids with ASD has soared from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 68.

Dr. Seneff also made an alarming prediction regarding the recent spike in ASD: “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” (

I’m not sure what else to say. The statistics are alarming. We (meaning humankind) and bees are in trouble.

Spread the news. Share this post with Moms. Women are known to vote with their pocketbooks. We can change the tide with our dollars. Economic choices make a difference. Companies notice when public opinion and consumer demands shift their profits.

We can do it.

Solar Amish and Bees

“Fire in the Sky” read the neon paper sign on its wire frame, blown flat at the Kidron Evergreen Park in Northeast Ohio. The woods were populated with Morgan Horses, the graceful and beautiful beast of burden that most Amish prefer. Tied to trees, their harnesses were lifeless and pelts wet from hauling their masters into town that day. Nineteenth century style black buggies with large skinny wooden wheels were scattered among the trees. It was a Solar Energy event. Small and isolated by most standards. That doesn’t matter. The Amish have never much cared to be famous or noticed.

The Sun

This is the small town where I was raised up. The Amish have always lived here in what has been seen as a back to the earth, pre industrial revolution lifestyle. They have piqued the curiosity of the world around, gazing in at what seems anachronistic and “backwards”. Soon the Amish will be surpassing the world around in the race for renewable energy and a sustainable future for their communities. They never did quite buy into the industrialization of their lives and farms. Lucky for them. The inevitable collapse of and transition from the earth destroying fossil fuel industry, will be less painful.

Image result for amish images

Green Energy Ohio ran an article on the explosion of solar technology among the Amish of Northeast Ohio 10 years ago. In it, they noted the forward thinking Amish already reading the writing on the wall. Whether they know or care that the  green revolution they’ve been living for centuries is coming back into vogue, it matters not a whit. The earth is being destroyed and polluted at an alarming rate by our fossil fuel driven lifestyles. They are pragmatic and wise stewards of God’s earth. That’s what matters to them. “I am a Christian and I am Amish.But being Amish is not a religion. It’s a way of life”, said Jake Raber. 

Though still resisted by a few hard-line Amish denominations, this technology that NASA relies on for its most advanced spacecraft is being heartily embraced by more and more of the plain-spoken folk. They view it as a safe alternative to lighting their homes with natural gas, white gasoline or kerosene.

Organic dairy, beef and chicken farmer Owen Nisley on County Road 600 near Charm, describes solar as natural as nature itself – “no different from my cows eating the grass that has captured the sun’s energy.”

Nisley’s solar panels generate about 500 watts of power. “The initial setup was very expensive,” he said, “but we love the solar, even in the winter when there are a lot of dark days.”

The equipment has become so prevalent that Green Energy Ohio is organizing an Amish Country tour during the American Solar Energy Society’s 36th annual convention, July 7-12, in Cleveland. About 1,800 people from across the nation are expected to attend the conference and trade show.

Squaring solar panels with Amish religious beliefs is easy. “I am a Christian and I am Amish. But being Amish is not a religion. It’s a way of life,” said Jake Raber, co-owner of The Lighthouse of Ohio Distribution, Ltd., in nearby Fredericksburg. “Being Amish means being independent.” Raber and his wife Betty ordered $50,000 worth of solar panels last year from suppliers in Michigan and Japan. They sold them all.

“Use common sense,” he said. “You can fill a 50-gallon drum with white [clear] gas at $4 per gallon twice a year, or you can install solar. It’s renewable. You can spend $600 on a solar panel, but it lasts 20 years.”

For bees this is good news. They have their own little solar collectors on their backs. They are the quintessential solar energy savers on the planet.They are animated by the sun everyday. They are light beings. They orient their flight patterns and dispense directions to the hive for nectar flows,  pollen gathering and new digs based on the sun’s arc and movement across the sky. Like the Indigenous peoples they are experts at reading and living by the rhythms of the planet. “Going solar” is a way of life.

The Amish and bees….showing us the way forward.


Patron Saint of Bees

Who knew? There is an Irish patron saint of bees. And a woman at that!

February 12 is the celebration of St. Gobnait, 6th century patron saint of healing for the sick. In 2008, I visited Ballyvourney, County Cork where the shrine built for Gobnait in the 12th or 13th century still stands. On the land given to her by  St. Abban, she established a nunnery, with an old graveyard and medieval parish church known as Teampall Ghobhatan ( the church of Gobnait). There is also a holy “healing” well for the ailing who come to partake of the waters. The interesting thing I noted is that Gobnait had bees crawling up her cloak (cement bees that is) and the base of the statue was adorned with bee symbols (look closely!) Little did I know back then, where the trajectory of my life would take me…back to the hive.

Gobnait was [also] the patron saint of bee keepers and kept her own bees.  There are a number of  legend  in which she unleashes her bees to attack enemies. In one  story soldiers came to Ballyvourney and stole livestock, as they left the village the saint  let loose her honey-bees upon them.  Another version of this tale has a band of robbers stealing her cattle and she sends her bees  after them and they promptly return the  cattle. It is this legend that inspired the Harry Clarke window. Many modern depictions of the saint  associate her with bees such as the  statue at her shrine in Ballyvourney by  Séamus Murphy.

In my beekeeping years, I have come to study the powerful association of bees to human art, literature and theology. Evidently the history books show that we have an ancient, deep and abiding connection with bees. I’m not surprised that our wonder and awe of bees has been re-animated as they have become endangered.

For millions of years, bees have been associated with resurrection, thrift, prosperity, healing, fertility and many other fascinating adjectives. More are returning to the folkways of bee medicine. All the elements of the hive are full of healing properties—from the sting for arthritis to pollen as protein and allergy antidote, to propolis and honey as anti-bacterial. And of course honey is wildly delicious!

I end with a lovely bit of a poem/prayer by Christine Valters Paintner….in honor of St. Gobnait and the bees.

Is there a place for each of us,
where we no longer yearn to be elsewhere?
Where our work is to simply soften,
wait, and pay close attention?

She smiles as bees gather eagerly
around her too, wings humming softly
as they collect essence of wildflowers,
transmuting labor into gold.


old graveyard at Teampall Ghobhatan (the church of Gobnait)






Love Your Critters

A country is only as great as how it treats its most vulnerable.

In a deeply disturbing move last week, the USDA mysteriously removed the website on animal welfare inspection reports.

Advocacy groups, journalists and other members of the public have used the information to track any potential history of abuses on the part of animal testing labs and commercial dog and horse breeders.

The head of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, said the group often used the now-removed USDA reports to track animal rights abuses.

“We assembled information about the worst operators of puppy mills, people who were violating the federal Horse Protection Act,” Pacelle said.

Pacelle said taking down some of that information violates a settlement between the USDA and the Humane Society over public access to Animal Welfare Act reports. He’s prepared to take legal action.

Bees are only one of the many beautiful, gracious creatures companioning us on earth that need our voice.  Thursday I will go up to Santa Fe’s Roundhouse to support the Senate Bee Memorial #4 labeling pollinator friendly plants in our state’s nurseries. This is being sponsored by UNM Wild Friends, the amazing group of NM school children who put forward a bill every year to safeguard our precious heritage of “wild friends”.  I invite you to support this memorial and contact your Senate Conservation Committee members before Thursday, Feb. 9. Bees need our voice!


Senator Joseph Cervantes D Chair
Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics D Vice Chair
Senator Ron Griggs R Member
Senator Richard C. Martinez D Member
Senator Cisco McSorley D Member
Senator William H. Payne R Member
Senator William P. Soules D Member
Senator Peter Wirth D Member
Senator Pat Woods R Ranking Member

This week I had a chance encounter with a winged one that is often despised. The pigeon. As my husband and I drove to the voting precinct on Tuesday a pigeon waddled into the street right into our car’s path. “Stop the car!” I shouted. I jumped out as the pigeon sat under our wheel blinking at me, seemingly dazed. Then I noticed she was banded. She belonged to Johnnie Williams in Amarillo, Texas. I wrapped the pigeon in a towel and we brought her home. We called Johnnie in Texas and he told us that he had recently sold her to someone in our neighborhood. When we mentioned her unusually docile behavior, he said that she must be practically starved. So we called her new owner. Edward promptly came to pick her up. Clearly he loved pigeons, having kept them since a teenager. All God’s creatures deserve a place on this planet he said, his face beaming as he gently held the little pigeon, noting how she was “empty” of food as he touched her belly. It was amazing what he could tell just by holding her. As a pigeon aficionado (It’s true. Can you believe it?!) he took pigeons into civic associations, schools and neighborhood youth centers to teach them about the importance of pigeons and why they had a rightful place on the planet. I was touched by his love of such a humble and usually despised bird.

Hear our humble prayer, O God for our friends, the animals, especially for animals who are suffering, for any that are hunted or lost, or deserted or frightened or hungry, for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful. —Albert Schweitzer  (Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, eds. Earth Prayers, HarperSanFrancisco, 254)


United we stand, divided we fall


Giant honey bee (Apis dorsata)
Author Ken Wilbur, recently addressed the critical intersection of human spiritual development that we are facing. He basically said that we have created a society that has lapsed into individualism, narcissism (“my opinion” at the expense of everyone else’s) and nihilism. Over decades, truth has become a casualty of such individualism. I get to define my life’s truth over yours—creating divisions and resentment in our civil society.
In the article he notes that the internet, which was borne as a free flowing international web of information has, as Time Magazine said, become “a sociopath”,  fostering some of our worst behavior, with no real authority to inhibit bad behavior. Google and Facebook’s algorithms mostly determined by the “most popular” hits, has no direct and immediate feedback loop in real time. Fake news has become popular.
Bees, in their close physical proximity and body space share constant communication. They work quickly…

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