A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

On November 5, 2010 at the Lincoln Street Art Center in Rockland, Maine, I got to do a very fun thing.  It was called “Pecha Kucha” – a name I found mostly unpronounceable for weeks after I first heard it.  Turns out it means “chit chat” in Japanese.  And it was developed by architects (Japanese ones!)  to provide a forum for architects who wanted to showcase their work, but for which there was no really effective venue. Or at least not one that could contain the enthusiasm of these architects for their work – and prevent them from monopolizing the conversation.

So they created Pecha Kucha nights – and developed a very controlled and specific format for doing just that.  And here it is, ready?  It’s  20 slides,  20 seconds.  So a Pecha Kucha presentation lasts a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  It’s a little bit like a tiny TED presentation.  (Do you know about TED?  There’s an idea worth Googling…)

At any rate – they asked me to do one.  I was so excited about the idea, I said YES in capital letters.  Then I began the process of preparing my 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  Simple enough, I thought – I’ll just pick 20 pictures having to do with bees, and talk about them.  That’ll be easy!  It’s only 6 minutes and 40 seconds, right?  How hard can it be?

Ha, I say to you.  Not so quick, missy.  It’s amazing how looooooooong 20 seconds becomes when you don’t have anything to say.  And how short it is when the slide has changed and you still had more to squeeze in!

I was as nervous as a cat on Pecha Kucha night.  Strung out tighter than a bowstring, you might say.  I was third on the program.  It seemed an eternity.  But afterward, as I walked off the stage in my bee boots, all I could think of was “Can we do that again?”  It was a blast.  And it seemed like the audience enjoyed it too.

So we’ve decided to post the script on this blog, (see below) and you can, if you like, see a video of the presentation here:  http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=15&cat=Interesting+Stuff

Thank you again to all the folks at Pecha Kucha night in Rockland, Maine for letting me on stage to do this – here’s a link to their website – http://www.midcoastmagnet.com/content/pecha-kucha .   And thanks to Jeff too.  He knows who he is.

And here is some info about Pecha Kucha nights in general:  http://www.pecha-kucha.org/what. They are springing up in cities all over – you might even be interested in starting one in your town!

Okay, so here’s the script.  Thanks for listening!

A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…

*  Slide 1 – (Think outside the box television t-shirt)
This is a t-shirt put out by the Life is Good people.  Don’t you just love those guys?  They are such a great reminder to “Do what you like, and Like what you do.”   And since I don’t even own a television, I particularly liked this shirt.  I spend a lot of my time thinking outside the box.  And no time at all watching television…  (0:20)

* Slide 2 – (the bug in question)
So that’s probably one of the reasons that beekeeping seemed like a perfectly reasonable pursuit to me.  Never mind the apparent lunacy of sticking one’s hands into a box filled with stinging insects, the little bugs just seemed magical, fascinating… much better than the stuff you find on television!  I set out to know more.  (0:40)

Slide 3 – (bee school)
And so off I went to bee school.  As you do.  And I learned about bees.  And about the keeping of bees, and many other things bee…  And then, on the very last day of the very last class, we had this big Q & A session.  Timidly raising my hand, I asked:   What did bees do — before beekeepers?    (1:00)

* Slide 4 – (pin dropping)
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop.  I was shocked!  Did nobody know the answer, or was nobody telling?  Had I spoken the unspeakable?  Since that day and that Q&A, I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question, and I have even made up some new ones of my own.  But that very loud moment of silence sent me down a new path.  (1:20)

* Slide 5   (Bee boots)
That path led me to question most everything I’d learned in bee school.  When you think that bees have existed on this planet for many millions of years and us humans for only a few hundred thousand… that’s pretty humbling, or it should be!     So I set out to discover what bees did before we came along.  The next slide shows us the essence of what bees do when left to their own devices. (1:40)

* Slide 6 – (Natural wax)
The honeycomb inside a beehive serves as both the “heart” and the “skeleton” of the bee colony.  The bees make thousands of those little six-sided cells, from teeny weeny wax flakes, secreted from itty bitty wax glands in their bellies – and they arrange them in the hive according to an intuition that only bees know.   (2:00)

* Slide 7 –  (Foundation in frame)
This is the kind of “skeleton” you find inside a square box beehive.  This is a piece of “foundation” inserted into a square “frame” and presented to the bees to “help” them make honeycomb.  Foundation is a sheet of beeswax that comes preprinted with hexagons – as if bees needed to be taught about how to make hexagons…  (2:20)

* Slide 8 –  (One size does not fit all)
The primary problem with those pre-printed hexagons is this — each and every one of them is the very same size!!!  This is no surprise, or evil master plan – it’s just that foundation is made by a machine, and machines know very little about the magic of bees.   Because as it turns out – bees don’t come in just one size.  And especially not as they begin their lives!  (2:40)

* Slide 9 –  (pix of brood and queen cells)
These are baby bees – we call this “brood”.  You got your girl bees – called workers.  You got your boy bees – called drones.  The hexagons that these baby bees are raised in are very different, as you see here… and then there is another kind of  magic altogether that goes on when the bees make a new queen!  (3:00)

* Slide 10 – (Langstroth hive)
But us humans, (with our big brains and our opposable thumbs) we fear nothing like we fear inconvenience.  And so, beekeeping began to be more about beekeepers and not so much about bees.  Hives became square boxes, easily stacked.  Bees were given square frames and preprinted foundation to use as the heart and skeleton of their nest.  This did not make sense to us in our search!  (3:20)

* Slide 11 – (Think outside the box beehive t-shirt)
So when we started thinking about thinking outside THIS box – we felt that the first thing we needed to do was to put the bees back into beekeeping.  We started to pay close attention to what bees did (without beekeepers) and we can tell you that there are three very important things that bees do without any encouragement from us at all:   (3:40)

* Slide 12 –  (Swarm at New Aim Farm)
Here is Thing One — Bees make more bees.  Contrary to Hollywood’s horror stories, swarming is the amazing, if somewhat startling process by which one colony of bees turns itself into two.  If bees didn’t do this, with all the recent problems with bees, we’d be all out of bees by now!  This is the first swarm I ever went up a ladder after – in 2007.   (4:00)

* Slide 13 –  (Bees pollinating fruit, veg, nut, flower)
This is Thing Two – Bees pollinate the stuff we eat.  Fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs – all of these plants need bees.  Pollination is the plants’ way of reproducing – it’s a symbiotic relationship that the plants have developed with bees.  We think it’s a good idea!  (4:20)

* Slide 14 –  (Adam Mcnally’s honey harvest pic)
And Thing Three – Bees make honey.  Oddly enough, honey is what honeybees eat!  And honeybees are smart – they know to make lots of food during times of plenty for those times when there is no food.  But us humans — you know, big brains — opposable thumbs — we put a lot of energy into “helping” bees to do what they already do – and sometimes our “helping” makes a mess.  (4:40)

* Slide 15 –  (It’s not about the honey, Honey  t-shirt)
Healthy bees do all the important things that bees do without any coaxing or cajoling or forcing, or manipulating.  So the important thing for us humans to do would be to focus on healthy honey bees.  We think “It’s not about the honey, Honey – it’s about the bees!  So how does that translate into our right livelihood?  (5:00)

* Slide 16 – (Forsythia hive)
At Gold Star Honeybees we believe that we “build a better beehive”.  This is a picture of our Gold Star Top Bar Hive.  We know that really, it’s just another box – and we hope that one day we will learn to think outside of this box, too.  But for now – it’s pretty convenient and easy and green, it’s even ergonomically friendly for beekeepers, but more importantly — it works FOR bees and not AGAINST bees.  (5:20)

* Slide 17 – (Bees flying in and out of top bar hive)
The bees that live in this box make their own beeswax,  in their own way – they make the cells the right sizes, and they put them in the right places.  So this is a box full of beeswax made BY bees, FOR bees.  You might say that they are “minding their own beeswax!!!”   (5:40)

* Slide 18 – (Natural wax – up close)
And since that beeswax functions as both the skeleton and the heart of the colony – we think it’s hugely important that it be as the bees need it to be.  And any time that us humans (you know – big brains, opposable thumbs) – anytime we’re tempted to think that we’ve come up with something “new and improved”, maybe we ought to think again!   (6:00)

* Slide 19 –  (I love bees t-shirt)
At Gold Star Honeybees – we feel like we have found our heart.  We know that we are out to save the world, by saving the bees.
So this is our message to you — “Do what you like, like what you do.”
Because when you follow your heart — the rest of it all comes together.    (6:20)

Slide 20 –  (Mentos beekeeper!)
And we’d like to leave you with this thought about the world and the way it works – ready?  Here is how you can help save the bees without sticking your hands into a box full of stinging insects —
Live your life knowing this —
That if you tug at a single thing in nature, you’re gonna find that it’s attached to everything else.

EVERYthing else.

Thank you.

(Mentos!)   (6:40)

(c) 2010  by Christy Hemenway.   Gold Star Honeybees  www.goldstarhoneybees.com


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2 Responses to “A little “chit-chat” about saving the bees…”

  1. Hazel W. Says:

    Christy, can’t thank you enough for his post. I’ve been wondering how to put you in touch with Heifer International. One of their World Ark Holiday 2010 gifts is a gift of Heifer honeybees, including the bees, the box, the hive, and training in the latest beekeeping techniques. The only problem is that the photo in their latest catalogue shows the rectangular boxes, with all of their associated problems probably unrecognized. A lot of us would love to see your supplies substituted, but that’s a leadership role I think you are up to. Is it possible that you could pursue this in earnest? Perhaps copies of your “chit-chat” could be sent to interim CEO Charles Stewart at WorldArk, 1 World Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72202. E-mail address for WorldArk is: worldark@list.heifer.org. This would be such a worthwhile contribution toward saving both bees and deserving human beings.

    Thanks much for all that you are doing.

    From Hazel Weidman who was fortunate enough to meet you at the Topsham Library during your presentation there.

  2. scry42 Says:

    Thank you Hazel —

    I will send it to them. Thank you for being such a thinker/connector!

    — Christy

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