When spring comes, the huddled bees clamber forth
From their cold, vulnerable colonies,
To feel the parting nip of late winter,
Savor the freshness of the vernal breeze,
And stretch their wings after the snowy cloister.
It is a time for scouts to find new hives,
A time for wild, swarming reproduction,
For rearing young bees to replace old lives.
A long-dead tree, standing in a vale’s hollow
With a deep cavity in its gnarled trunk—
A tree surrounded by rich broadleaf forest
That’s populated by boar, elk, and skunk—
Makes a worthy home for the nesting bee
Whose queen’s needs she must mindfully mark,
Whose summer combs will ooze melliferous,
And whose life is forfeit to the hive’s arc.
To make her claim, the bee must make her dance:
A robust and energetic gyration
That tells of her proud stake in the wooded chamber
And coaxes others to its location.
With zealous effort she wins the vote
Of the hive’s fascinated queen and drones,
Then, in glory, she leads a swarm of thousands,
Through pale glens to her queen’s modest throne.
There the settling bees establish their hive.
There is much to do, and no time to wait.
Waxy, hexagonal combs must be built
For the larvae and honey they’ll create.
A resinous mix of saliva and wax
(Used as a sealant and called “propolis”)
Is applied to the cracks and crevices
Of the bees’ growing metropolis.
And of course, the virgin must be mated,
For she shall be the mother of all bees:
Those to be born in the coming days,
And who’ll be the life of the colony.
Like in a dream, the queen’s mated in flight
(Best on warm, sunny days with a blue sky)
By drones who won’t gather pollen, or nurse,
Or build, or anything—save mate, and die.
From these singular males, in but one flight,
The newly mated queen keeps in her belly
Fertile stores to last the rest of her life,
Which consists of eating royal jelly
And the vital task of reproduction:
Egg-laying, fertilizing, sex control,
For it’s the queen that manages the lists
Of sexes that the working hive enrolls.
Summer comes and goes. The female workers
Build, gather, nurse, clean, and make sweet honey.
The male drones laze far from the busy hive
On days that are hot, languid, and sunny.
The world revolves. Trees start to lose leaves.
Autumn’s chill winds come with a rustling sigh.
In fall, the gluttonous, idle male drones
Are expelled from the hive and left to die.
The hive’ll be a buzzing sphere of females
When, once more, winter comes with ice and snow,
And at that sphere’s center the queen shall rest:
Heated by trembling bees in her hollow.
In fallow days the bees live on their stores
On honey that to their cells they did bring,
As they shiver throughout the cold winter
And keenly await the coming of spring.