Jacqueline Freeman (author of Amazon bestselling “The Song of Increase”) has been keeping wild bees for 13 years now, and keeping them honey-fed and treatment free. She houses them in Warres and top bar hives, in her house walls, and in several large logs.
Susan Chernak McElroy (author of NYT bestseller “Animals as Teachers and Healers”) has been a student and friend of Jacqueline’s for about six years. She learned beekeeping by taking all of Jacqueline’s classes multiple times, and then by becoming editor/project manager for Jacqueline’s book. Now, she teaches all the beginning beekeeping classes for Preservation Beekeeping, including classes on her personal passion: straw hive and Sun Hive weaving.
The next step was this: The formation of a bee-centered bee club, and a nonprofit for educating new beekeepers and the public about bees–what they need, and how to help them survive and thrive. And so Preservation Beekeeping Council is born.
Others are stepping forward to steer our website, grow straw for woven hives, build hives to sell our members and followers. Our hope is that this Pacific Northwest bee club will have many faraway friends and members. We need places for this visionary and imperative new beekeeping paradigm to take root and gather force.
We want this site to become a home to any and all who have felt out of place at conventional beekeeping organizations and have been wondering if there is a better, different way to “bee.” There is. Right here. Please, join us!
What do bees like? If your bees could tell you what they would prefer from you—their kind steward—what do you imagine they might say? Preservation Beekeeping is our term for a method of beekeeping that puts bees’s needs first. We try to keep our bees in ways that honor their true biology, which is the best indicator we have of how bees like to…well…bee.
On this site, you’ll find articles about new ways of keeping bees; innovative hive styles; classes and events; new research about honeybees; and a place to share your questions, conundrums, and successes. We want to be the go-to site, and the go-to club, for bee-centered beekeeping.
If you live nearby, we hope you will join our club and attend our meetings as we build a
village of beekeepers and bee lovers who want to preserve the wildness, the genetic diversity, and the amazing adaptability of the honeybee.
If you live at a distance, join us for access to our informative and helpful forums, and to be part of this virtual village of kindred bee spirits. Or host us at an event in your town/country!
We also wanted to share a bit more about how we—club founders—found our way to bees. Here is Jacqueline’s story:
MY FIRST CONNECTION WITH BEES
My story with bees began in 1983 when I attended some classes (in an unrelated field) a few months. Each day I ate lunch near a swimming pool. One day I noticed a honeybee who had fallen into the water. I found a stick and scooped her up and placed her on the grass. Then I noticed another and did the same. And another and another. One by one, I rescued every little bee in the water. The next day I did it again. When I say this, you’d imagine I did it about ten times, right? I’m guessing I rescued nearly a thousand bees that spring, every day until every bee was okay.
I had zero experience with bees, but this was a powerfully driven call I could not ignore and became a daily task I felt drawn to complete. Until I took up with keeping bees 20 years later, that was my only connection with them, but geez it was powerful. I still check bodies of water anywhere I go to be sure the bees are all safe.
WHY I’M DRAWN TO PRESERVATION WORK
My work as a guardian is about helping bees live full lives free of worry, surrounded by love. A friend asked me if I would take an abandoned hive who had been left for years in an overgrown backyard. My second hive came when I was asked to remove bees from an old one-room schoolhouse where they’d lived for 80 years. Word got around and I started getting calls from nervous people asking me to come over and get swarms out of their yards. I knew that fearful people are likely to kill bees, which compelled me to start educating people about their magic and inherent value. I’ve also gathered many, many hives from walls of buildings and places humans didn’t want bees to be, times when I knew those rescues prevented colonies from being harmed.
All through my bee life I’ve felt a deep connection with them. I started with bees before they came into fashion, so there were very few places to learn how to care for bees the way I felt drawn to do it, cleanly, in ways that match how wild bees live. I spent my first half dozen years asking the bees to tell me how they wanted to be cared for. At first that was just a bunch of wondering questions, me musing about what bees want from a bee-human relationship. I asked many earnest questions for years without any real answers, and then one morning I suddenly “knew” something about bees that I hadn’t the day before.
And that continued for the next few years. I believe I was being educated by the bees and I took detailed notes each morning as they explained the nature of bees and how they live in our shared world. My book, “Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World,” evolved out of that.
I am blessed by living on a beautiful farm my husband and I are stewards to. We are organic, biodynamic, and quite rural so overall my bees are fairly safe here, though we have had three times when someone sprayed poison within my bees’ range and those hives died horrible deaths. This really disturbs me because we are not even close to big agriculture or urban areas, yet still the bees suffer from chemical exposure. It’s heartbreaking.
That is why I wrote my book, with the hope that many thousands of people take up the call to protect all of Nature, and these ideas spread to millions of people who do whatever it takes to keep our environment clean and natural. To that end I write, speak, teach and pray that all life is honored and respected, and I try to get that out as many ways as I can.
My bee-buddy Susan Chernak McElroy (author of the NYTimes bestseller “Animals as Teachers and Healers”) and I created a bee club and website based on these principles of good stewardship and heartfelt relationship, the Preservation Beekeeping Trust <www.PreservationBeekeeping.com>, and are taking our bee work to more natural hives. She weaves straw skeps and I’m hiving bees in trees rather than normal wooden box hives. We’ve stepped away from beekeeping as a way to access honey and moved more toward providing healthy bee homes that don’t require human interference.
As I write this, it’s mid-winter here on the farm. A few days ago I was up in the garden checking on the bees and, as is normal, found a few dead-looking bees at the front entrance. I checked each one and noted most had their tongues hanging out, but I found a bee who still had her tongue in her mouth. Just in case she might still be alive but chilled, I took off my glove and carried her in my closed hand, thinking I’d warm her up when I got back to the house. But as is usual for me, I did a few other quick tasks here and there and ended up in the cow barn. I’d become so used to carrying the frozen bee in my closed hand that I’d forgotten she was there and was surprised to feel a little tickle on my palm. Yes! She was alive and even though my hands were cold, my body heat was warm enough to rouse her. A short walk back to the bee house and I placed her at the entrance. With a perky saunter, she scooted back into the hive.
I’m a self-professed member of the “every bee alive” group. I know most beekeepers would question why I put so much effort into one little bee when a hive has tens of thousands. To most people that little frozen bee wouldn’t be worth the effort. Nonetheless, I try my best to treat every bee as if she’s a unique and special bee, each worthy of care, protection and love. These individual bees were my first teachers and even now, decades later, I feel a heartfelt affinity that they each get their moment in the sun.