A delegation of Big Ocean women attended the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in March. We gathered information, made new contacts, and interviewed women from around the world who are impacting their communities in positive ways. We are excited to share with members and cottage leaders over the coming months.
At the conference, we held a parallel event and spoke about maternal feminism. In this board message, I wanted to share my maternal feminism message about how rural women are like honey bees.
My family runs a commercial honey bee farm in Central Utah. We have been doing this for four generations, and our children are 5th generation beekeepers. In studying about honey bees, one thing I am certain of: honey bees are essential for life on this planet. Over 75% of the crop species consumed by humans are pollinated by bees, plus thousands of plant species that we don’t eat.
Unfortunately, the beekeeping industry does not have a handle on honey bee health. Diseases are wiping out our commercial colonies. Some beekeepers use harsh chemicals to treat bee diseases within their hives. The wax comb within the hive stores these chemicals and they accumulate over time. We don’t know what the long-term effects of this will be, but it is my opinion that they are harmful. We choose to be treatment-free beekeepers and think that bees are capable of surviving without heavy chemicals.
Over time, in the process of selecting bees for honey production, beekeepers have lost some disease resistance.
The good news is that there are populations of wild honey bees that survive in spite of disease. They are usually colonies that escaped from a domestic hive to the wild, and so we call these “feral colonies.” Feral colonies live in isolated populations that have developed characteristics to help them survive without human intervention.
In our family apiaries, we are trying to add these characteristics back into our colonies. We want to do this without interrupting their natural behaviors. We do this by taking a mini colony with a virgin queen bee to areas with feral hives. We time it just right to release the queen in time for her mating flight.
A virgin queen mates once in her lifetime. She will fly from her hive to an area where male drone bees congregate, mate with about 12 drones, and then store their DNA to use as she lays eggs throughout her life. After she has mated, we bring the queen bee home and raise more queen bees from her daughters. In honey bees, any female egg can become a queen bee.
As we repeat this process of breeding virgin queens to feral drones over bee generations, we get a higher and higher percentage of feral bee genetics. We hope to see increasing disease resistance so that we can continue our treatment-free beekeeping practices.
These feral colonies have unique characteristics that make them valuable.
- They have a unique micro-ecosystem within the hive, involving thousands of species of microorganisms along with the bees.
- Some colonies exhibit hygienic behavior, which is a recessive genetic trait that causes bees to smell and extract disease from the hive.
- Bees in these colonies are adapted to their local environments and thrive even in extreme conditions.
- They are effective pollinators, spreading genetic material from one plant to another.
We seek to model these characteristics in our hives and our homes. As women, we are stewards over our homes and families and our feminine, nurturing gifts have profound impact for good on our children and those around us.
We can create healthy micro-ecosystems in our homes and families. We do this as we foster unique traditions, love, belonging, health, food traditions, organization systems, a hard-work ethic, finding joy, healthy attachment, security, and resilience.
In Hold Onto Your Kids, Neufeld and Maté say that parents can offer things that peers cannot, like “unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other.”
“Absolutely clear is that children were meant to revolve around their parents and the other adults responsible for them, just as planets revolving around the sun.”
(Hold Onto Your Kids, Neufeld and Maté, 2004)
Like bees who exhibit hygienic behavior, we can clean and remove unhealthy things from our homes. We are responsible to remove physical danger, pornography, addiction, and abuse from our environments. We have a profound hope that we can follow our internal compass and know which things we need to remove from our environments to create healthier lives.
Like honey bees, rural women are adapted to our environments. Women are resilient, scrappy, and resourceful. Across the globe, rural women have adapted to their environments and are stronger because of it. Rural women want to live in our home communities.
At one meeting during the CSW event, Mr. Groberg mentioned visiting isolated tribes in mountain communities in Peru. They had children living in New York City, who wanted them to leave and live nearby. The indigenous parents said that they want to live where they are and preserve cultural traditions.
In my town, there is a strong sense of community, which we can draw upon for strength. If something hard happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. As part of this community, we teach our children about their heritage and story. Children learn why they came to be in their part of the world. As we hear the stories of people who came before us, we hear about the ups and downs of their lives, and how they overcame hard obstacles. It gives us courage that we can overcome hard things too.
I love living in a place where my children can build anything, play anything, run, jump, splash, get messy, grow things, connect with the environment, and learn to work hard.
Women and men are stewards of our environments and taking care of our piece of the planet is essential for our livelihoods. For example, if I let my animals overgraze our pasture, I will not have a pasture for them next year. I must take care of my stewardship to prosper.
My friend from Kyrgyzstan said recently about her family Datcha garden, “You don’t understand the drive of Russian people to grow food.” I resonate with that and see the innate desire to grow food in the women around me. We have the desire to nurture a piece of ground, and see seeds sprout into plants, then flowers and fruit. This food sustains us, and we like having a say in how our food is produced. Then we share the abundance of our crops with our neighbors.
Lastly, rural women are like honey bees who pollinate. Women are creative and spread life and hope as we go. We honor our uniquely feminine biology and desire to nurture. The solutions we create can last for generations. We can teach the ability to create solutions to children, which helps them become problem-solving adults.
While at the conference, the UN delegates voted unanimously to create a World Day of the Bee on March 20. I look forward to celebrating that day annually, and thinking of how I can better model my home and life after life-giving honey bees. Our positive life culture is abundant and sweet, like the honey that bees produce.
To see the Facebook Live recording of Alicia’s presentation go here.