Farming, HomeFarm

Bees: The Mammal with a Thousand Bodies

SHED co-founder Doug Lipton with a hive ready to swarm on HomeFarm; photo by Caitlin McCaffrey


You can hear them in the video before your eyes have a chance to understand what you're seeing. The hum is loud and unwavering, not melodic, but not unpleasant. It sounds warm.

And in fact, it is warm. Not the sound, but the mass of honeybees that the man is holding in his hands. Working with the bees just as they are about to swarm, he gently cups hundreds of them and, just as gently, shakes them from his hands, like sloughing delicate grains of sand onto the log he's suggesting they occupy. The phone recording this movement wobbles. "Oh. WOW," a woman says.

For holistic beekeeper Michael Thiele, moving a swarm of honeybees without smoke or fuss — with his bare hands — is not only a natural thing to do, it's the kind thing to do. The bees are ready for a new home, a reincarnation if you will, and he is merely their midwife.

Also called a "radical" beekeeper, Thiele owns Gaiabees and co-founded the Melissa Garden pollinator sanctuary in Healdsburg. He presents two workshops at HomeFarm Saturday-Sunday, April 26-27. Saturday is "Biodynamic Apiculture for Beginners"; Sunday, "Zen and the Art of Living with Bees."