The Bees of the Invisible

I can’t find the reference now, but I remember its essence.  Look upon the land and hold it in your heart for when it is taken away its memory remains.

The speaker I do remember was a Lakota Sioux to his people at the onset of white encroachment and Indian removal.

Memory often holds what is no longer–memory, the only way perhaps both to reach back and to move forward.

I thought of this when I read of the 2.5 million honeybees inadvertently killed in South Carolina during a morning aerial spraying for possible zika-carrying mosquitoes.

And I had thought of this earlier when years ago the march of the wind turbines, their large straight and heavily graveled roads around my Panhandle farm forever changed the access to the spirits of that place.

Land, bees, mosquitoes, roads, the urgency of remembering: what could they all possibly have in common?

The same as thirty percent of the African elephant population killed in the past seven years.

I do remember reading that another Lakota chief, Luther Standing Bear, said that “observation was sure to have its rewards.  Interest, wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestation.  It was expressed in different forms.”

He implied this observation is a kind of conservation too:

“The animals had rights–the right of a man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness.”

Man’s indebtedness. . . .He comments were all in the past tense.

But those county sprayers in South Carolina, they sought to preserve too–lives possibly affected by zika-bearing mosquitoes.  So, what of the memory of 2.5 million bees?

The poet Ranier Rilke writes about the role of the writer in the act of memory and memorializing and its humanizing effect.

What he calls “the bees of the invisible.”

“We are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. . . .It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that is essence can rise again ‘invisibly’ inside us.  We are the bees of the invisible.  We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.”

Piles of dead bees in a town called “Flowertown.”  Bees to pollinate the flowers, the main economy of that place.  Dead bees stacked high around pools, in front yards, by hives, their keepers on knees before them in tears.

Surely you know we have lost up to forty percent of these pollinators already, due, in part, to pesticides, and that our agricultural health and economy depends upon them?  Statistics show that more than $15 billion a year in U S crops are pollinated by bees.  The global economic cost of bee decline, including lower crop yields and increased production costs, has been estimated as high as $5.7 billion per year.

Perhaps bees are among the perishing of this earth because they are not visible enough to us.

Yesterday I stilled my inclination to flit myself from task to task and watched a single bumble bee satiate itself in the orange fluttering Jubilee plant in the front yard of my Las Cruces home.  Hovering, diving, in mimetic frenzy, the bee carried pollen from one trumpet shaped flower to another.

What might we see, looking at a single bee?  Bumble bees leave an odor footprint so that flowers they’ve visited need not be visited again, a conservation of valuable energy.  Bumble bee wings flap 200 times a second.  They can shed their wings in winter in the hive in order to help keep the mass of bees warm.  Honey bees may forage 2-5 miles from the hive.  To make one pound of honey, bees may need to fly 50,000 miles. And there is more.

Back in South Carolina, one bee keeper said she could still hear some buzzing in the hives, the last of the survivors frantically trying to feed the starving young bees.

She also said it would just have taken communication.  The county exterminators learning from bee keepers that night-time spraying would spare most bees who are active instead of in daytime.  And then there’s the need to invent and use pesticides safe for bees and other essential pollinators.

Communication.  Looking backward as we look forward.

Art need not be the byproduct of extinction.

The material world doesn’t have to perish because of our amnesia.



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