Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Musings About Beekeeping Psychiatry: Therapy Through the Bees

Beekeeping be can therapeutic, at least for me, anyways. It’s sort of like a pill for my mental health. It’s especially necessary with my job as an elementary school teacher. 

Working with fifth and sixth graders all week takes a toll on a guy. It’s like being a cowboy all day. I am constantly roping them all in and trying to find ways to keep them under control and focused on the class. Then add in all the other teacher duties such as extracurricular activities, planning for classes and grading workbooks and tests. Teaching at a bilingual school in Honduras is no easy matter. I often wonder how I keep my sanity. 

Contemplating the flames.

As many beekeepers have probably experienced, bees are good for the soul. Just sitting and communing with the bees usually helps me to relieve tension and forget about all the other problems I have with work or with life in general. I don’t really think about anything else except the coming and goings of the bees I’m watching. After one becomes accustomed to being around bees, their buzzing begins to sound sort of like music—soothing, relaxing.

Just getting out of the house and heading to a bee yard can do the same. I feel fortunate to have one of my apiaries near the river that crosses the valley where I live. To get to the bee yard, I have to first go through a private park just outside of town (enormous old mango trees line the road that winds through it) until I reach the hammock bridge that crosses the river. The bees are situated on the land of the farm on the other side of the bridge. 

One of the best times to go there is early in the morning, such as when I’m moving recently trapped swarms to the apiary. I get up at the break of dawn to move them, strapped to back of my scooter. It’s fairly easy work. Enjoyable.

When I’m done it’s time for coffee. I take my thermos underneath the bridge to the edge of the water. The temperature is still very agreeable, not the stifling heat of the afternoons. Like the sound of bees, the sound of running water is soothing. Having a cup of good Honduran coffee (strong, no sugar, a bit of milk) lifts the spirits. No yelling kids, to lesson plans to make, no tests to correct—just me and the bees and the river (and my coffee!).

Morning coffee and the tranquility of the river—soothing for the mind.

Now, can beekeeping be turned into a more formal tool if the beekeeper needs some sort of formal therapy and have their heads analyzed? It’s possible. 

Most people probably know about Hermann Rorschach’s ink blot tests that psychiatrists use to analyze what is going through a patients head (tell me what you see in this picture). The same thing could probably be done for the beekeeper--but using the flames of their smoker.

I often invite people to come with me to work and play with the bees. This was the case last year with Kevin from Canada, who was working with me at the bilingual school in my town here in Honduras last year. I had him get the smoker started. For Africanized bees, that means a big one—one that shoots out flames as you get your smoker material burning well. As usual, I had my camera taking photos.

Later I posted the picture on Facebook that you see above and the comments started about what people were seeing in the flames—just like the inkblots. It’s a bird, it’s a shark, it’s a seahorse. Now look at these other two photos also.

Ink blot tests for the beekeeper—look into the flames and tell me what you see.

So, what do you see? What do those flames look like? Or more important, what does it all mean about what you’re seeing in them??? Is everything normal up stairs or not? Let me know.


Version in Spanish (versión en Español) in my other blog "Reflesiones Sobre Apicultura."