A lesson from nature on systemic intelligence by Helen Woods
A recent experience this week reminded me how nature is such a useful guide and a metaphor for behaving and learning.
In the spirit of being ‘in service’ to the world of bees and help their cause, we recently hosted a hive which is in the bottom corner of our veggie patch. To set up a good beginning, Mark the apiarist came in and assessed our situation and determined that we are well situated as an urban setting and agreed to give one of his Queen bees a home.
When the weather started to warm up, Mark arrived early one cool Wednesday morning to setup the new hive. Facing east and with clear access for the worker bees to come and go, the seasoned 3–year–old Queen and her community took up residence. Like all joining-s I noticed they took a little time to get their bearings and set up their cadence and rhythm for productivity. I remember Mark saying, ‘Leave them be, don’t get too close and just observe their comings and goings for the next week. If the hive begins to bulge at the opening, then it will be the sign to let us know that things have not worked out. They will have killed the Queen, chosen a new leader and will be preparing to swarm, and move on‘.
None of this eventuated, so Mark came by in another two weeks and observed…. from afar….and confirmed that things looked settled. In his words…’Looks like they’ve landed and feel happy in their new place!’ We felt accepted and pleased to be hosting and sharing our garden, and expanded neighborhood for their benefit, confident in their ability to thrive!
A few more weeks passed, and the hive has been busy going through its daily routine. Every time I have watched from afar, and I have noticed a couple of drone bees come my way and check me out curiously. Apparently, they were scanning my face. Their way of getting to know their host. Often, I been close to the hive when tending the veggie patch and noticed their level of inquisitiveness. They appear to have accepted our engagement and hosting arrangements.
Last week after missing a couple of appointments Mark turned up un-announced as he was in the area. It turns out he had been called out to gather up a couple of swarms after some bad weather had caused trees to come down. He arrived, a bit hot and bothered. Collecting swarms is tricky work, apparently.
Mark donned his suit and head protection gear, gathered up his smoker and checked our hive.
The weather was unsettled. A storm was on the horizon. Mark mentioned that conditions were not ideal. He also commented that he may have the fresh smell of anther hive on his gear…which could raise sense of concern. So, he asked me to stand back and quietly watch on.
As Mark approached the hive the bees’ activity heightened. He puffed some smoke over the hive and surrounding bees. They quietened somewhat. He gently lifted the lid of the hive’s top box. This created an out–burst of activity and loud buzzing. ‘Trouble in camp…was my first thought! However, more application of the smoker calmed things down a little. Mark stood still, like a statue. Silent. I called out, ‘Everything OK.’ After a pause Mark responded, ‘ Yes, they are coming along nicely, better than expected really. All good!’
He then placed the top on the box and moved to one side. The bees were visibly disturbed. The buzzing sound was palpable. Mark moved a little further away, and again stood like a statue, well protected in his gear. My first thought was a sense of fear. Suddenly, with the impeding storm weather pattern about to arrive, there was a strong sense of chaos and anticipated perturbation in the air.
As an innocent bystander I became acutely aware that I was being stalked by a couple of ‘scout bees’. I was now part of another storm! One landed on the bridge of my nose and fluttered about. I flinched and waved my arms. As natural response for me showing fear. That that really stirred up things! Then I felt the prick and quickly wiped my face intuitively, pulling out the little sting-sack. The dye was cast.
My pheromones of distress and fear attracted what felt like potential more attacks. More hand flapping exacerbated the counter-reaction from bees close by me. I fled indoors! Un-injured. Disappointed in my reaction. I felt rejected!
As Mark composed himself and walked off the property gathering assurances that I was OK, he said, ‘Too much going on. I smell of another hive. The weather is coming in as a disturbance, you are wearing black, bees don’t like that colour! A combination of factors has created a bigger than expected storm!’
And finally, his parting words were, ‘Oh and by the way, your hive is doing brilliantly, much better than expected, let’s leave them be, they love it here!’
My take on this experience is simply this.
- Listen to nature.
- Learn to lean in.
- Don’t get in the way.
- Tune into the system’s intelligence.
- Work with where the energy is.
- Embrace the opportunity to set up a new relationship well.
- When the system’s cadence and rhythm are working well, leave ‘things bee’!
Helen Woods, Leading Well