Beekeeping3 - Copy

“Passing their lives under exalted laws,
Alone they recognize a fatherland
And the sanctity of a home, and provident
For coming winter set to work in summer
And store their produce for the common good.”
Virgil, The Georgics IV

Bees simply stand out from other animals at the homestead. It’s as though they’re trying to teach us something. In several ways.

In no other domestic animal are daily activities so directly and obviously about the whole, about the ‘fatherland,’ as it were. The flourishing of the hive is a complex order, something far beyond the reach of any individual, or small number of bees. Each must do its part—no more and no less. The work of each is somehow woven together into a fabric, the beauty and reality of which both embodies and transcends what each alone has accomplished.

Provident foresight is likewise modeled. Calm and consistent, today’s work is given direction and importance by future needs—the needs of others, who will come later. Others’ flourishing is the object. Today.

I love to stop and watch the foragers coming and going from their home, their fatherland. (Foragers, of course, are older bees. Young bees start out with simpler jobs inside the hive.) The steady pattern at the hive entrance–closing in, hovering, landing, and taking off—is so steady that what is in fact hundreds or even thousands of foragers looks like it’s the same twenty bees doing it again and again. Thunderstorm? No problem. The sun will be back, soon enough. Nighttime? Well-deserved rest for the weary foragers. There is a time and a place for everything.

So the daily routine of the bees evidences and constitutes the sanctity of their home. And a person is honored to have ever so small a part in their foresight, and work, and its glorious fruits.

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.


Might vs. Valor

Phalinus, messenger from Persian King Artaxerxes, demands that the Persians (who had fought with Cyrus, now dead, against Artaxerxes) put down their arms. Xenophon responds: “Phalinus, at this moment, as you see for yourself, we have no other possessions save arms and...

read more

Bethany Weekends: Spring, Summer Schedule

Socrates insisted on the centrality of examining our lives. The purpose of such examination is clear: we will come closer to being the persons we can be if we accept the challenge of our human identity, of being rational. This is our privilege: to use our reason to...

read more

Of Dogs and Men

“But when he knew he heard Odysseus’s voice nearby, he did his best to wag his tail, nose down, with flattened ears, having no strength to move nearer his master. And the man looked away, wiping a salt tear from his cheek… If this old hound could show the form he had...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest