There are more associations between beekeeping and Easter than you might imagine.
Lengthened days, sunglasses perched on heads and the first signs of buzzing bees emerging from their hives: spring is right around the corner! Easter marks a seasonal turning point, and symbolizes new life. For many, egg hunts, treat baskets and ham dinners are traditional ways to celebrate Christianity’s most important holiday.
While I most definitely won’t turn down a neon-colored marshmallow or a chocolate bunny, I have a new way to mark my springtime Easter celebration. It may be unconventional, but hear me out on this one…bees.
Easter is the perfect time to applaud these hard-working creatures and usher them into a new season. Spring marks an important turning point in a beekeeper’s seasonal cycle and an exciting start to a summer of honey production.
The Bible doesn’t mention colored dye and hiding eggs: so why are these the conventional symbols of the Easter holiday? Some say that coloring eggs is a nod to ancient pagan holidays that celebrated spring. The egg itself symbolized new life, rebirth, and fertility.
The Christian Church (starting with early Christians in Mesopotamia) adopted the Easter egg tradition, linking the cracking of eggs to the empty tomb of Christ and staining them red to symbolize Christ’s blood.
Today, yolk-filled eggs are often replaced by the chocolate or plastic variety, leading to a great variety of egg-shaped sweets in the grocery check out line
It’s hard to compete with an ancient symbol of life (and a tasty one at that), but bees definitely have rebirth down to a science. Their entire ecosystem exists to produce as many baby bees as possible, carefully guided by signals from their queen. Bee responsibilities are divided to support the efficient creation of new bees and new hives. A queen bee may not be as cute as the Easter bunny, but the amazing fact is that she can lay 2000 or more eggs per day. Talk about new life!
Could the bee, like the egg, become a symbol of rebirth? Even swarming bees, which can incite fear or panic in humans, are really just an effective way to reproduce a colony of bees. Living creatures that work together to create an entirely new, living ecosystem: it’s a pretty awesome nod to Easter’s theme of Christ’s rebirth.
For some Christians, Easter Sunday means they are finally able to enjoy their favorite luxuries after abstaining for forty days during the Lenten season. This religious tradition, based on the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, encourages Christians to repent for their sins and prepare for Christ’s rebirth on Easter. Many Christians choose to participate in extra spiritual rituals (like a daily devotional or community service) to mark Lent as a time to renew their devotion. Easter marks the end of Lent, and the beginning of a new spiritual season.
Drive by a church gathering on Easter Sunday, and you’ll likely see a few church-goers happily enjoying their favorite indulgence for the first time in a few months, and feeling spiritually refreshed after a few months of religious preparation.
So what could this possibly have to do with bees?
Christians aren’t the only group that misses their favorite luxuries during the winter season. Beekeepers often dread long, bee-less winters and dream of warm weather, hive checks, and honey harvesting. As they dream, they may prepare by reading, learning, and connecting with other beekeepers (see Over-Wintering Humans: Getting Through The Long Wait).
By the time spring comes for the very first hive check, beekeepers feel a blanket lifted and life starting anew. Hopefully, beekeepers emerge from a cold period of hibernation and sacrifice, refreshed with new energy and ideas from their long wait.
I can’t forget to mention that most delicious of bee by-products: honey. Many beekeepers stock up during the summer months of honey production, but after gift-giving season, holiday parties, and one too many honey-slathered crusty breads, they too might be “fasting” from their favorite treat. By the time Easter rolls around, beekeepers are ready to break their honey fast with the fruits of their bees’ labor.
Spring represents the start of honey production: the beginning of a delicious, sweet cycle that beekeepers are eager to get rolling again. For beekeepers, those practicing Lent, and anyone who longs for spring sunshine: Easter is here! That long waiting period? It’s over! And it’s time to bask in the joy of spring.
For many Christians, Easter is a time to rejoice and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Easter dinner is often shared with family and friends (prepared while snacking on jelly beans, of course). Traditional Easter foods vary greatly by culture, but often include ham, potatoes, egg salad, fruit pies, breads, and seasonal spring vegetables like asparagus and carrots. Spring ushers in the season of flowering blooms, with tulips and snapdragons often decorating Easter tables.
Why celebrate the bee during an Easter dinner? Bees create the pathway for many of these ingredients to land on your Easter table. Over 90% of the world’s wild plants, and at least 30% of crops, are aided by the cross-pollination of bees. As bees collect food to energize their colonies, they transfer pollen from one flower to the next, helping plants to thrive and reproduce. Without bees, our Easter tables would be limited and far less colorful.
Need proof? Check out this replication of what Whole Foods would look like without bee pollination. 237 out of 453 products were removed from the shelves, including many Easter staples such as onions, lemons, apples and carrots.
Whether you are planning an Easter celebration, getting ready to do some beehive maintenance, or just starting to learn about these amazing creatures, consider the ways that bees connect with sacrifice, rebirth, and celebration.