They’re blithely perched right in the middle of our convent’ s courtyard. You might even hear soothing buzzing in the dead of night. They never seem to stop working come lluvia ó sol. I ‘ m talking about the bees that pitched a waxy tent outside one of the glass windows of our La Anunciación Convent in San Lucas, Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. Sr. Vicenta welcomes their presence because the bees pollinate her lovely f lowers (I have photos to prove it) and her vegetables and trees. 

As an integral part of our ecosystem, beekeeping generates billion- dollar industries. Bees are crucial to agriculture; some farmers rent beehives to help pollinate their crops. Some estimate that 75 % of food crops heavily rely on insect pollination. But it’s not a secret that the bee population in the world is dwindling primarily due to climate change and insecticides. We, humans, are endangering our food supply chain through aggressive agricultural practices. Without the food security afforded by our industrious and indefatigable insects, we would not survive. Hence, we must advocate for sustainable organic farming that promotes biodiversity and does not eliminate nature’ s beautiful pollinators.

Could our Sisters harvest the honey, you asked? I used not to know the answer to this question, but I know better now because of what I ‘ m about to tell you. Did you kn o w that Sr. Helena i s a certified beekeeper in her home country, Nigeria? As soon as I saw the bees and learned about Sr. Helena’ s beekeeping prowess, I inundated her with bee questions. The short answer is yes; honey is bound to be dripping from the honeycomb inside the nest! However, they would have to sacrifice the whole colony to harvest the honey because those bees did not build their abode in an easy- to- handle wooden human- made beehive that we are used to seeing. So, what will happen to the honey inside? Sr. Helena said the bees themselves will eat it when there is not enough f lower nectar to harvest. Oh, what I would give to taste organic honey!

I have more bee secrets I want to share with you. Not too long ago, archeologists found 3,000 – year- old pots of honey in Egyptian tombs that were miraculously preserved and remained edible!

Yes, honey has an eternal shelf- life under perfect environmental conditions. Honey is so thick with very little moisture that very few bacteria can survive when stored in a sealed j ar. I t is also highly acidic and contains hydrogen peroxide, which makes it medicinal, like a natural Band-Aid.

I found out that there could be as many as 50, 000 bees in one hive; the female bees outnumber the male by 100: 1. In the bee hierarchy, there is only one Queen bee whose job is to lay up to 3,000 eggs a day. The male drone bees’ sole responsibility is to mate with the queen; they die after the deed. Yikes! The worker bees are the busiest because they gather nectar, guard the hive and honey, care for the queen and larvae, c lean, and last but not least, produce honey. Doesn’t this remind you of the Paschal mystery of our lives? One of these days, the convent’ s bee nest will have to be relocated by professional beekeepers because its current location is precarious as the colony gets bigger. For now, I want to keep my butterfly/ bee pollinator garden and enjoy watching and learning about our magical, marvelous bees.

Massive beehive on the window of La Anunciación Convent in San Lucas, Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. 

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