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This podcast has been more than a year in the making. Paul and Jocelyn sit down to talk about it and right off the bat there's a lot to say. Jacqueline Freeman's book is called "The Song of Increase" and it's about raising honeybees without treatments of any kind. When he first saw the title, Paul thought it was kinda terrible, but once he finished reading the book, he realized that the title was a lot better than his original assessment.
Paul talked to Jacqueline Freeman about her book and he had some comments and questions for her to consider. The two big things that stuck with Paul were stories that are told in the book. The first story is about how bees live their lives and respond to the sounds and activities of the entire hive from the time they are a larva all the way until they make their final pollen collection trip at the end of their lives. Jacqueline spends an enormous of time watching, hearing and understanding the bees.
The podcast continues with a story about the old bee that comes back with a load of pollen. Jacqueline, can tell that it's an old bee based on the damage to their wings and their over all look. Apparently they also emit an odor that can notify the rest of the colony of their age. Because the colony is more important than any individual bee, there is a process by which the bees decide who can enter the hive and who cannot. The old bees eventually reach a point where they are no longer allowed in the hive and so they take a non-flying leap off of the edge of the colony platform and simply give up and lay on the ground until death occurs.
The second thing that was quite stunning was that when Jacqueline and Joseph were going about their chores they noticed that in the bee colony, there is no such thing as "fair". Bees contribute to the colony for the entire span of their lives and the colony will take as much as they can get as a collective, with no concern for the individual. The whole goal is to increase their numbers to the point where the colony is so large that they split up their forces and swarm to create a second colony.
The title of the book comes from the sounds of a happy, growing colony that could potentially split and swarm. Apparently the humm of the hive is a very dynamic and informative thing. Jacqueline has been able to discern the fluctuations in the hum in such a way that she can know what's going on in the hive without really needing to bother the bees too much. Some of the things they hum about are, growth, food, illness, stress and defense.
They talk about the different roles that bees play, such as taking care of brood, defending the gates to the hive, collecting food and capping cells. They all have the ability to do many jobs so whatever is of the highest importance, that's what they will do. Jacqueline believes that the bees really love to give back as much of themselves as they can to the colony. They work themselves to death out of love for the rest of their colony mates.
In the book, there are sections that are called "in our own words", which are Jacqueline's attempt to decipher what the bees are talking about. While this is something of a translation between species, Jacqueline believes that she's gotten a pretty good understanding of what the bees are "saying" with their collective humming. In the audiobook version of her book, Jacqueline has a friend named Robin help out with the bee sounds.
Later in the podcast, they talk about how bees determine which plants are best to harvest from and how they go about performing tasks such as fermentation to increase the value of the foods they collect throughout the season. Along with this they also go in depth about how honeybees have methods and tactics for stabilizing their colony in times of stress or uncertainty.
Jocelyn really enjoyed the book and found it to be amazing in many ways. Paul had an idea that if Jacqueline decided to rework the book, he thought that maybe a religion would form around the book. Jocelyn found that statement rather odd, but Paul has determined that "the book is that profound" and wonderful that some folks might find it quite useful in guided them in their own lives. Not that he'll be signing up for such a religion.
Part of the song of increase is about gratitude for thousands of right actions. This is what leads to a happy healthy colony that is able to split and spread it's awesomeness to new places in the environment.
Jacqueline's honeybee techniques streaming video
Jacqueline's profile on permies.com
The bee forums on permies.com
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This podcast was made possible thanks to:
Ash Jackson is The Scrollbard