The Hawaiian Queen
July 14, 2007

We watched the beekeepers together, my son and I. He was squirming beside me, almost too big for sitting in my lap now. Two men in white suits and veils, apis-nauts, moved purposefully and gracefully through the smoke, as in a dream. Sometimes their actions were synchronized, as if they had been choreographed. Lift the lid, crack the wax seal of the frame with the hive scraper, hold the comb up to the light, shake the frame to release the bees, replace the frame, and begin again. We grow drowsy in the heat, enchanted by the sacred fragrance of sunwarned honey, wax, and smoke.

It's swarming season, and so the beekeepers check the hive every week. One hive is feeding royal jelly to a few princess larvae. They will emerge one by one and fight each other to the death until the victor remains as queen. One honey bee forages in the clover at our feet, avoiding her smoky home until the roof has been replaced and the brick firmly placed on top to secure the hive.

Sometimes the apiarists work in focussed silence, while at other times they wonder out loud, "What have you got for us, girls? This frame's missing an ear. Uncapped brood. Where's the queen? Is she marked? I don't think so. Here she is--The Hawaiian Queen." Once they have finished, the beekeepers pack the comb that's heavy with honey into plastic tub. They remove the white suits and suddenly they are human again. The spell is broken.

My son and I write a new message for the bees:

"Long live the Hawaiian Queen!"