Observing a top bar comb in progress.

Observing a nearly completed honeycomb in a top bar hive.

Honeybees and Humans: A Life Sustaining Relationship

Humans and honeybees have had a close, long-term relationship for 10,000 years. We have domesticated this remarkable species, and today our agricultural and food systems are very much dependent upon the honeybee.

Bees keep us alive. Without their pollination services, there would be no almonds, blueberries, strawberries, apples, and a host of other fruits and vegetables that make up so much of our diet. We can no longer take the bees or these foods for granted.

A honeybee pollinating a apple blossom.

A honeybee pollinating an apple blossom.

Each year since 2006, one-third of all managed commercial beehives have died in the U.S. and beyond, victims of a destructive malady called “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). This situation is not sustainable. The total numbers of beehives and beekeepers are in increasingly rapid decline, a classic “downward spiral.”

One positive response to the decline of honeybees and beekeepers is to create and educate a small, dedicated community of organic, holistic beekeepers, especially highly conscious “apiators” who are keeping bees in top bar hives. Top bar hives allow bees to build their own combs. The beekeeper gives the honeybee (a single, whole superorganism) “free reign/rain” to express its own inner character by creating comb with its wax glands. This wax comes from flowering plant nectars. Honeybees living within and on fresh, relatively uncontaminated wax combs are more vigorous and healthy. Their immune systems can deal better with increasing environmental degradation. By creating sustainable backyard gardens and apiaries filled with healthy honeybee colonies, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, we can co-create sustainable habitats for honeybees while they share their honey and help us grow food for our tables.

Peach Blossom

A honeybee with pollen on her legs approaching peach blossoms.

A honeybee pollinating a squash flower.

A honeybee pollinating a squash flower.










Dr. Patrick Pynes has been teaching beekeeping and sustainable gardening for the past 20 years, both inside and outside of academia. He believes that sustainable top bar beekeeping can be a part of our local/regional/global solution. Honeybeeteacher.com is about learning from the honeybees; they are excellent teachers, and there is so much to be learned from them. This enterprise is also about teaching people how to establish and care for their own top bar beehives.  Join Patrick in making a difference for yourself, for your family, and for our planet.  Viva las abejas!


corn-bee design-final draftFull Circle

In the center of this image is a queen bee, surrounded on all sides by her daughters, or “attendants.” The queen’s attendants–all of whom are sisters–encircle, groom, and feed her, for she is the life force of the hive.

Surrounding this circle of honeybees is a circle of maize, or corn. These red, white, blue, and black ears of maize correspond to the four sacred directions and symbolize the peaceful, harmonious synthesis of indigenous American and European agricultural traditions. Spaniards and Englishmen first brought honeybees to the Americas, while indigenous peoples living in what is now Mexico created maize by domesticating a species of wild grass. The colonists who immigrated to the Americas from Europe had never before encountered corn; indigenous peoples had never before encountered honeybees, or Apis mellifera. Now they are part of the same living whole.

To my mind, the honeybee is the Fourth Sister.  With her origins in both Europe and Africa, she has crossed the Atlantic Ocean to join her three indigenous American sisters (corn, beans, and squash) and is now becoming part of the same global family. This joining together of different, related things is an ongoing, historical process. The honeybee is not only a “bristling, formidable intelligence,” but she is also an expression of the sacred Feminine divine, an interwoven, flowing tapestry of life, death, and life….


Eat Local, Be Happy by Alyssa Burkett featuring Patrick Pynes

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