“I took a moment to marvel at what the bees had created”, says Texas Beeworks‘ Erika Thompson as she looked inside a junked toilet tank packed with ordered bands of honeycomb, one of the unlikely hives she has relocated. Her videos have become a sensation on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, documenting her adventures calmly moving whole colonies of bees out of hives that that have formed in the midst of people’s lives: under a pool umbrella, in a patio chair, an old tire, a water meter, compost bin, the walls of a house. (THAT one, told as an Instagram story, is astonishing. View it here.)

The videos are mesmerizing to watch as much for the view into the workings of wild hives as for Thompson’s relaxed, fearless self-assurance as she handles each new challenge, often without protective gear. They are curiously soothing; she narrates them in a quiet voice, describing what she is doing and the thinking behind it —educating us — as she scoops bees up in her bare hands, clearly in awe.

Like Chinese vlogger Li Ziqi’s addictive videos of life on her grandmother’s home in the Sichuan mountains of China, part of the attraction is watching a young woman adeptly using power tools, solving problems, mastering tasks and wild things many find frightening with quiet self-assurance.

Recently, a rival beekeeper accused Thompson of faking the videos, and of giving people false ideas about the realities of bee handling, particularly about not wearing protection. Thompson says she has so much experience she can tell if bees are friendly (as most honeybees are), and bulky protective gear inhibits her ability to feel and move with precision, so she wears it as little as possible. We’re wondering if the tightly-edited 1-minute Instagram videos fuel the concern of artifice. This 8-minute youtube video documenting removal from a junked toilet tank, from which this tiny instagram clip came from, is, to us, mightily credible. Compare it to the 1-minute version here.

We found this video made as a promo for her business to be illuminating on many fronts, for Thompson’s story and thinking, and as a basic primer on bees and their threatened ecology.

We especially love the description of why she loves being in a bee hive:

When you’re in a hive, you have to be completely present. And you have to ignore everything else that is going on around you in the world. With everything happening nowadays, I almost find that it’s like a retreat for me to go into a bee hive and just be quiet and present. It’s meditative almost to be in the presence of these creatures who we rely on so much.

Her ode to bees reminded us of Pablo Neruda’s*:

Multitude of bees!
in and out of the
crimson, the blue,
the yellow,
of the softest
softness in the world;
you tumble
headlong
into a corolla
to conduct your business,
and emerge
wearing a golden suit
and quantities of
yellow boots.

The waist,
perfect,
the abdomen striped
with dark bars,
the tiny,
ever-busy
head,
the
wings,
newly made of water;
you enter
every sweet-scented window,
open
silken doors,
penetrate the bridal chamber
of the most fragrant
love,
discover
a
drop
of diamond
dew,
and from every house
you visit
you remove
honey,
mysterious,
rich and heavy
honey, thick aroma,
liquid, guttering light,
until you return
to your
communal
palace
and on its gothic parapets
deposit
the product
of flower and flight,
the seraphic and secret nuptial sun!
Multitude of bees!
Sacred
elevation
of unity,
seething
schoolhouse.

Buzzing,
noisy
workers
process
the nectar,
swiftly
exchanging
drops
of ambrosia;
it is summer
siesta in the green
solitudes
of Osorno. High above,
the sun casts its spears
into the snow,
volcanoes glisten,
land
stretches
endless
as the sea,
space is blue,
but
something
trembles, it is
the fiery,
heart
of summer,
the honeyed heart
multiplied,
the buzzing
bee,
the crackling
honeycomb
of flight and gold!

Bees,
purest laborers,
ogival
workers
fine, flashing
proletariat,
perfect,
daring militia
that in combat attack
with suicidal sting;
buzz,
buzz above
the earth’s endowments,
family of gold,
multitude of the wind,
shake the fire
from the flowers,
thirst from the stamens,
the sharp,
aromatic
thread
that stitches together the days,
and propagate
honey,
passing over
humid continents, the most
distant islands of the
western sky.

Yes:
let the wax erect
green statues,
let honey
spill in
infinite
tongues,
let the ocean be
a
beehive,
the earth
tower and tunic
of flowers,
and the world
a waterfall,
a comet’s tail, a
never-ending
wealth
of honeycombs!

And here, one more astonishing minute:

*From If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems from Rumi, Shakespeare, Burns, Coleridge, Emerson, Mandelstam, Neruda, Whitman, Yeats, Lawrence, Plath, Mary Oliver, Carol Ann Duffy, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sherman Alexie, among others.  A portion of the author proceeds will be donated to support research at the Bee Lab.

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