Humans are a very young species so it is hard to tell if the idea of humanity will stabilize or not. It’s not looking good. Jane Goodall writes in the forward to Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation that “what separates us from our closest living relatives, the Chimpanzees—and all other animals—is the explosive development of our intellect. … How bizarre that we, the most intellectual of all species, should be destroying our only home.

Bees beeing

No honeybee would do something that dumb. I wonder if we can learn from them?

We do not deserve to stand in the presence of such wondrously complex creatures. But they don’t mind as long as we are quiet and let them work. When I do, I can’t help but reflect on our own way and Spirit. It gives me both hope and instruction.

That’s what the workshop is about August 17 and 24th (online). I’m leading it at Threshold Retreat and Farm (here). You might want to join with people who will gather in humble, hopeful curiosity to ask how can we humans might find our way illuminated by the honeybees.

It is worth pausing to study bees carefully because many of the things we think we know about them are exactly wrong. For instance, they are not rigidly organized around a totalitarian leader. They are democrats with no one bee deciding anything, certainly not the queen who is busy laying eggs. When they vote on a new home, they do so in the open, transparently and while dancing. No mean spirited puffery. Good decisions happen.

The honeybees are not invulnerable. Three of my hives died within two weeks when gardeners nearby sprayed poison ivy, which have little flowers the bees like. Nothing bad for bees is good for humans. We breath in the same crap that kills them. Dumb us.

Honeybees remain wild, even after millennia of being managed and robbed by humans. We think of bees as orderly, hierarchical and well-behaved because we steal their precious honey. About four thousand books have been written purporting to teach silly humans how to manage them. And yet honeybees are still untamable for thirty million years and counting,

Honeybees survive because they are wild. They mate high in the wind with six or ten boys not from the neighborhood. It reminds me of my Norwegians who were often led by women as fierce as honeybees, finding mates and raising children across the waves to Newfoundland and down long rivers all the way to Turkey.

Human cultures also find life through shared–not shed–blood. Our story includes violence, often organized and sustained over long period of time. But the species as a whole thrives because of what flows across the boundaries where we find new blended life. Zero immigration adds up to….zero.

Wild works. I’d rather live in the wild USA than teeny weeny Hungary which used to have a diverse empire. Now it is afraid of the world, encouraging us to be afraid with them. Look rather to the honeybees.

Honeybees don’t teach us; they probably think we’re unteachable. They do pose a damn good question: how do we humans remain wild and expansive? How do we remain curious about where love might be found, Spirit unleashed, new songs and vibrations pointing to new possibilities?

We are so young that we are still stupidly proud. Surely it is obvious that every human structure, hierarchy, creed and scientific certainty has passed like the dew in the dawn. Wild, adaptive, ever beginning, ever new–that’s what works. The honeybees have been a stable success for at least 300 times longer than we’ve been painting on cave walls. Generously, they invite us along for the flight.

Register here for the workshop, August 17th and 24th. Zoom, of course. $75 tuition goes to Threshold Retreat and Farm. Participants will receive a PDF draft of a book I’m writing about this. And a real copy when it is published. I’m glad to scholarship a bit, if you’ll give me some feedback. Email me at gary@honeybeespirit.org. Please join us!

Note: The honey from the bees who live with TC and I is called Warthog From Hell honoring the wild untamed nature of southern women. We also bottle honey blended from five other sites to make Honeybee Spirit. Both are available at the Threshold Retreat and Farm booth at the Cobblestone Market in Winston-Salem.

Honeybee Way

Some of the wayfinding women of Stakeholder Health as we met at Salem College in Winston-Salem Thursday and Friday: Heidi, TC, Dora, Amy, Anya, Somava, Shelly, Lauran, Anna. Women have learned how to do that at Salem for 250 years.

Honeybees are the most successful species of the most recent thirty million years. The honeybee in the fossil record is essentially the same as you can find on your nearest batch of clover. Humans, inexplicably proud of our brief ten thousand years, should pause in wonder. We are doing poorly as a species, unlikely to see more than a few generations. Ironically, is common to read stories on the human internet about the demise of the honeybee! These stories are based on the widespread collapse of commercial hive operations, which often ship hundreds, even thousands, of hives on trucks to pollinate vast almond orchards. The bees die by the billions as disease spreads easily in the unnaturally weakened hives, especially from the dreaded varroa mite—the “destructor.”

Dr. Thomas Seeley notes that in nature, hives are usually dispersed two or three per square mile and seem to be rapidly adapting the behavior to resist the mite. Smart money would be on the honeybee to outlive humans by another several million years.

So perhaps we should pause and ask what we might learn from the bees about ourselves. Bees are highly evolved with every body part honed to perfection. My favorite is the middle leg joint which has a little notch through which the bee pulls the antennae to clean them when they become clogged with pollen. My knees barely permit tennis.

It is not the body parts that teach us; we are stuck with two legs and no wings. In any case, you can’t build a strategy on what we do not have. What do we have?

The main distinctive of the honeybee is not its body, but the wonderous social structure of the hive. The hive—the same 3-pound weight as a human brain—is social, intelligent and highly adaptive. It makes complex decisions, including where and when to send out the mother and half the workers create a whole new hive. For 30 million years in a row they have made that decision with stunning success. Its most experienced foragers switch from looking for the daily nectar to become scouts or, I like to think, wayfinders. They find the way, help the hive decide and then literally lead them. They couldn’t find our home; we need our own wayfinders.

What do we two-leggers have to work with as we face a tougher challenge– finding a new way to live on the one and only planet we will ever have. Despite the fantasies of a handful of delusional narcissists with so much money they can’t think straight, we can’t go anywhere. Mars? No honeybee would think about it for a nano second.

Honeybees have a vast advantage in that their social life emerges from a shared purpose every single bee will give their life for. Just this afternoon I noticed as a bumble bee found its way into my backyard Warre’ hive, which has an observation window that allowed me to watch her being chased by a guard bee a tenth its size. Humans, cursed with social media can no longer distinguish common threats, easily distracted by individualized fantasies and fears. Bees never take their eye off their common future.

Wayfinders! Dr Kimberly Dawn Wisdom receives the first Stakeholder Health Dr. Ruth Temple Award from Dr. Dora Barilla as Dr. Jerry Winslow watches from Loma Linda University (Dr. Temple’s alma mater). All of them brilliant, brave with eyes on the future of us all.

Humans do have Spirit, which some think gives us the capacity for wisdom, social imagination and common courage when facing a true discontinuity as we are now. No hardwired species would have a chance. We still do because we have Spirit, which gives us the subsidiary capacities for lamenting the lost beauties and then deep accountability for making the choices that lead to life. We can do that and have in other times of radical challenge. It is not enough to be homo sapiens, or even as we like to claim homo sapiens sapiens ( the species that knows it knows). Our only hope is to claim our capacity as homo sapiens sanctus-the Spirited species. That one might be capable of metanoia—the Great Turning so obviously required.

A tiny step in the Great Turning happens these next two Wednesdays as some wayfinders gather on Zoom for a workshop based on a book under construction. I’m delighted to be doing this with Threshold Retreat and Farms, itself a worthy harbinger of the possible. We’ll also gather in July at the farm for some in person mingling with the honeybees. We’ll help each other be a little less afraid of our wonderful world and a bit more clear about how we might live with it—especially the magnificent honeybees.

Register here. The $75 goes entirely to Threshold Retreat and Farms, of course. I’ll even sweeten the offer by making sure that anyone who registers gets a pound of the wonderful single hive vintage honey from Warthog From Hell Honey—made by fierce southern Italian bees on our porch. If the registration keeps you away, let me know and we’ll find a way, of course.

In humans even drones can help! Arvind, Rick, Ed and Terry lend energy as we met in the Innovation Quarter .

Honeybee Spirit

I was going to write about Buffalo but then Uvalde happened which I was going to write about and then the NRA with Senator Cancun and the Former Guy happened. I just don’t have any words for the cultural/political dumpster fire. I’m in no mood to pile on to the 19 officers who had no idea what to do. I am curious about how in such a tiny town and such a blazingly screwed up kid, no pastor or youth minister had any idea either. I appreciated President Biden not giving a formal speech. Time to shut up and make something happen as there are a lot of towns like Uvalde. I’m shutting up about it, too.


Honeybees have a perspective on life we could learn a lot from. They have a fossil record, not a Facebook timeline. They are focused on doing the next right thing and doing it right (paraphrasing Seth Greer’s great song). That makes them lock in on the next generation, which causes them to bring the center of the hive up to 95 degrees in late winter when it is freezing out so the Mother can start laying the eggs that will become the workers and foragers the hive will need when the Maple begins blossoming in early March.

This season I got a nucleus hive in place just before the bloom from John Lineberger, who is also a high end race car machinist. Racing bees! And, indeed, they took off and haven’t stopped even for a pit stop, piling in the honey.

We’ll have 5 gallons bottled available at the Threshold Retreat and Farms booth at Cobblestone Market Saturday just down the street from where the bees call home. This honey is a single hive vintage, sort of like the single vineyard vintages offered at the high end Round Pond Winery where Kathryn and Fernando work. Their Bovet Cab runs just under $150 a bottle. Our honey, which is technically healthier, will be $12.

This vintage will be bottled as Warthog From Hell Honey, honoring the fierce southern women bees who produced it. TC—untamable herself—suggested the name, thinking of Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona—“give me that baby you warthog from hell!” Mothers of every species are fearless on behalf of their kids. The Uvalde cops had to handcuff a mom; the bees would have approved of the mom and wondered about the drones.

Next month we’ll bottle another 15-20 gallons in a mélange from hives in Old Salem, Hispanic Waughtown, Buena Vista, Clemmons and Yadkin. The friends who work with those hives have sharply different perspectives on nearly everything except bees, but we help each other find our way. Despite politics and theology, if I needed something at 3 am at the very end of my rope and hope, I’d call one of them—probably the one I disagree with the most. That honey will be bottled under the name Honeybee Spirit, honoring exactly that.

Honeybee Spirit is also the name of the workshop I’m doing through Threshold Retreat and Farms next month. We’ll explore what we can learn about human spirit in the presence of bees. We can’t learn from the bees, since they would not deign to teach anyone without wings, antennae and only two feet. They know our species is still primitive, barely emerged from larvae stage. They trace to the wasps, before breaking off 30 million years ago to gather nectar in highly social hives that would give up their lives for each other. We’re more like the wasps, I regret to say—meat eating with limited social skills.

To learn from the bees, one has to slow down and attend. Pay close attention to what they are actually doing. I have a Warre’ hive in the back of our house. It uses a different design than the one my racing bees are growing to ridiculous scale. The Warre’, designed by a French priest to be more like the tree cavities bees prefer, has a Plexiglas window that allows me to watch the sisters build comb, tend to the larvae and even see some chewing their way out of their cell to start working. After three weeks inside the dark house, the bees become foragers, navigating by the light and position of the sun to scour in about a two or three mile radius. They invite us to look as carefully at our neighborhood, noticing what is bloom and where the best pollen is, also the rotted wood piles with the medicinal mycelium.

The bodies of the bees are perfectly evolved to read the reality of their environment and then thrive with what is offered. Every little body part is perfectly adapted. Fred Smith once asked me for what are we humans perfectly adapted? We can’t fly or even run fast; not very acute eyesight—none at all in the ultraviolet ranges bees favor. We can smell ok, but nothing like the acuity that allows bees to find subtle blossoms at distance. We can reason when we choose to, but often choose not to. We can invent entirely new things and then make them be; but often choose the most ancient and crude ways—handguns.

And then we have Spirit. I would not go so far as to say humans are the only sentient creature with Spirit. I’d be surprised if dolphin do not. Golden Retrievers, in my experience, do. And surely in some way we can’t grasp, the hive. But for what do humans’ Spirit perfectly adapt us? Africans understand that every human has spirit energy. Kant believed every human has that and creative freedom, that makes it possible for us to invent entirely new social forms, not just the iPhone and AK-15. We are obviously not going to make it another few generations if we don’t pick up the pace on growing up.

It seems likely that we humans will be known only by one of the thinnest layers in the archeological record, facing away before we barely got going. But maybe not. Maybe our capacity for Spirit might allow us to change into something more wise, generative and resilient.

I’m working on a book about all this by the same name, Honeybee Spirit. Should be ready to take wing later in the year. If you sign up for the workshop, I’ll share a working draft of the book with you. And a bottle of Honeybee Spirit honey, too. The workshop is whatever we make of it; the honey is what the honeybees have made and I can assure you, it is for the ages.

Phillip, Mellisa, James, Annie, Clay, Kelly and Linwood spinning the honey from the racing bees.