Apis Arborea

The Ancient Craft of Tree-Apiculture
December 3, 2016; 9-4pm
Green Gulch Farm Honeybee Sanctuary.image-10
“Apis Arborea” is an attempt to redefine our relationship with bees and to create a new paradigm of caring for bees.   Hirsch 4We will look at the reemergence of ancient and traditional ways of apiculture, in particular the craft of the “Zeidler”, who used to take care of bees in living trees. Rewilding habitat and nest restoration for honeybees are becoming increasingly essential for honeybees to survive.  As wild bees survive in non managed ecosystems and nest sites, they represent a resource for new strategies for contemporary apiculture and a fundamental shift in bee stewardship.
During the workshop, we will build a nest cavity within a living tree, using traditional and contemporary tools.
Bring a back lunch and wear layers. We will be outside all day long.
For more info and sign up, please email michael@gaiabees.com


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Basic Call to Consciousness

“Honeybees for Life: A Basic Call to Consciousness”

IMG_1199The phenomenon of honeybees constitutes an unusual and unique matrix of life. As a sentient mammalian being and social insect alike, it lives at the crossroads of different archetypes. The closer we look, the more vast the dimensions of its nature become. Just as light swings between the world of particles and that of a wave, the life continuum of the bees as a “one-beeing” stretches across polar opposite paradigms. The extreme fluidity of  all physiological and morphological aspects of this animal is paired with a dynamic locality of organ like functions. Within the corpus of the “one-beeing”, the individual bees can be understood as somatic cells, who can flow like blood, take on metabolic functions and oscillate  between many different physiological functions.  In one moment they can be part of the respiratory system, in the next an umbilical cord cell, osteoblast or olfactory receptor. Regular physiological laws cannot be applied easily, as the “one-beeing” belongs to an evolutionary stream of it own kind.

The Austrian philosopher and innovator Rudolf Steiner described bees as a “Weltenraetsel”, which literally means world enigma, similar to the famous Zen Koan which inquires about the sound of one hand clapping. We may perceive this complex spectrum of the “one-beeing” as a paradox, and yet the paradox only exists in language and words. Just as koans only make sense when we go beyond words, so too can bees only be fully understood through a direct and intimate experience and relationship.


Honeybees invite us to enter the unknown landscape of our consciousness and to step outside of our default faculty of reasoning.  They encourage us to move into “bewilderment where the mind wanders without certainties” (Terry Tempest Williams). When we observe bees with innocence and openness, we can perceive a deep inwardness within the “one-beeing”. It is a soul and wisdom filled inwardness. We could say that the essence of our work and relationship with bees hinges on intimacy, an intimacy with the heartbeat of the “one-beeing” and our own innermost  being.  Inner awareness, stillness and sensing are the means for this deep quest into the bees.

It requires courage to enter this ineffable field without the patchwork of maps of our old left brain world.  The “one-beeing” is an embodiment of the principles of inter-being. It epitomizes the new fundamentals of life which are defined through an awareness of interrelations and interdependencies rather than personal concern. The “one-beeing” encourages us to step into another sense of self, a sense of self which is valid beyond dualism. This new identity recognizes “itself” in the rose blossom, the ocean, our enemy, and the entire cosmos.

In the mystery of real contact with the “one-beeing” can we find refuge and the means to respond to life from a deep and grounded place.  It generates a perspective which is infused with the intimate knowledge from experimental sensing.  Who am I, and what is the foundation of my beliefs?  In many spiritual traditions this point is described as leaping across the abyss.

IMG_7443-2For most of their life, individual bees live in utter darkness within the hive, among thousands of others of its kind. They move with a beautiful fluidity across many combs on a vertical plane and are immersed in the warmth and humidity within the dynamic outer membrane of the “one-beeing”.

Touch, taste, olfaction and subtle senses for magnetic and gravitational fields compose their sensory spectrum.  Their life is suspended within the gravitational ocean of the earth. The gesture is concentric, contracted, and  in a lively state of inhalation in darkness. Yet the fluid and dynamic potential for change is always present. Seemingly radical transitions are a normal feature within their life, as they can suddenly spread their wings – or we could say membranes –  and launch themselves into the light flooded aerial ocean. The polar opposite from the previous state is realized: the gesture moves towards light, expansion and the periphery, in a smooth long exhalation.

Swarm medicine can be our tonic for challenging times: It is a birth of a new being when a so-called bee swarm is leaving home. The swarm is shedding its familiarity with the nest of origin and dissolves the bond to the exact location of the former home. The newly born is on a quest for a nest site, without which it would not be able to live. It leaps with profound faith and trust into the unknown. This endeavor is about life and death and the newborn recognizes the unknown as the only viable option for a path into the future. It is the utmost act of letting go – a letting go into a birth of new possibilities! It is a leap into total presence. It is a leap across the abyss.

IMG_3974When we enter with presence and intimacy into the mystery of bees, we can understand that  they are not only a fundamental necessity for the procreation of a vast number of plant and animal species, but that the “one-beeing” is a unique inspiration in our cultural, psychological and spiritual life.  Her entire life substance is infused with altruism, service, love, and a unique sense of self. She not only reveals the deep interdependencies and the wholeness of the entire biosphere, but is a keystone species within the web of life. She is a sense organ of the earth. She is a gift given to life on our planet.

Through the art and craft of the apiarian way we find a multidimensional landscape of “beeing” and of being in the world. The “one-beeing” is medicine for our soul, heart, and spirit.  Her simple presence is a basic call to consciousness, audible only to our hearts.

What will it take for us to leap across the abyss?

Goethe & Honeybees

Of late, I have found myself fascinated by Goethe’s phenomenological approach and dynamic way of thinking and seeing. It seems to invoke simultaneously both curiosity and bewilderment.  In my search for resources on the topic, I came across the wonderful book Taking Appearance Seriously by Henri Bortoft.

IMG_3908He describes phenomenology as “taking the ground away from under our feet, whilst at the same time giving us a sense of being where we always have been – only now recognizing it for the first time”.  He continues to explain that “the phenomenological approach makes us shift from what we experience into the experiencing of what is experienced”.  Intrigued by the complexity and subtleness of this approach, it made me wonder how it could be applied to apiculture and honeybees.

“… one needs to study the life of bees from the standpoint of the soul.” (R. Steiner)

flagsThe nature of honeybees – which I would like to refer to from here on as the onebeeing – is complex, fluid and appears to integrate polar opposite qualities.  The surprising mammalian-like qualities in an insect body, and the singularity of the macro-organism, which consists out of thousands of individuals, are examples of the multidimensionality of its being.  The onebeeing is a vastly dynamic form of life, exhibiting a breathtaking degree of plasticity and flexibility.  Its own tissue consists out of thousands of individual bees, who are the medium for countless physiological processes ranging from metabolism, gestation, sense perception, to neurological processing.  What is unique is that it functions as if it were undifferentiated tissue.  No specific organ seems to appear, and yet all normal functions of inner organs are present. This tissue acts similar to stem cell tissue without ever losing a complete open dynamic state of evolving according to current needs.  Its receptivity and aliveness towards formative forces and fields in general transforms this tissue-like ‘gathering of individuals’ into a new dimension of life.

‘When we use the principles of logic we avoid contradiction, and so we cannot see reality as a whole’.  (Shohaku Okumura)

It seems that in order to understand the life gesture of the onebeeing fully, one would need an additional approach besides the linear or intellectual. Bortoft calls this “the sensuous-intuitive mode”, a contemplative act of witnessing and participating outside of our default dualistic way of being.  By shifting our attention and awareness, we are able to create a space for an appearance “so that we can receive the phenomenon instead of trying to grasp it”, similar to Goethe, suggesting ‘to become the plant’ (onebeeing) which we are studying.

ggf 2‘All life forms reflect the unknown gestalt of our soul.’  (Andreas Weber)

The onebeeing is a network of interrelations.  Unlike our own default sense of self, her’s is not defined as a living being separate from the world, but rather as being part of the world through intimate belonging.  Her sense of self is created in dynamic and multidimensional processes, as if she were embodying a network of multiple selves.  We could almost say that she ‘are’ more other than self. The many bees appearing to our eyes ‘is’ a time-gestalt, a language of the ‘great bee’. This cornucopia of levels of self comes with a change in language, as if common grammar was unable to reflect this phenomenon. The process of learning from her and studying through becoming the onebeeing, not only reshapes our perception and understanding of ‘them’, but shifts inwardly our frame of reference. Our identity becomes more fluid, more open. Who ‘is’ we?

‘Language shapes perception, and perception shapes language.’  (Terry Tempest Williams)

SONY DSCIn his book ‘Metamorphosis’, Andreas Suchantke describes bees as sensory-limb beings. He demonstrates how the “bee’s inside is its surroundings, into which it completely dissolves, and from which it receives a deep formative imprint;  … The border between the bodily interior and the outer world becomes blurred” – as if the onebeeing was never entering a dualistic world view.

‘The soul , in a way, is everything (Aristotle)’.

It is a gift to be able to live with bees. The onebeeing reveals the deep truth of our life, and makes it palpable how our self is dependent on everything we call no-self.  Difference and sameness are merging, as the universe views itself through our eyes.  Goethe’s organic thinking and the dynamic idea of the one and the many are revealing a fluid form of life.  The phenomenological approach not only opens our view and understanding of the biosphere, but it also brings a different understanding of the self.  It ‘“liberates us from restrictive patterns of thinking” (Bortoft) and living our life.

 ‘… I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?’ (Rilke)

The onebeeing seems to speak in a similar language, inviting us to sense deeply and to listen to and follow our most significant questions.  Contemplation and inwardness are not only essential when practicing phenomenology, but are keystone elements for a bio-dynamic transformation of our life.

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’ (Goethe) 

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IMG_3908This course is an introduction into Api-Sophia and the wisdom aspects of Apis Arborea (Honeybees). It will consist of contemplative practices, inwardness, deep perceiving, and inner journey.   It will introduce the ‘Amber’ as a place of listening and oracle, a place of service and becoming, one of transformation and inspiration, and one of the sacred heart.

Winter is a good time to begin our journey into the darkness (here understood as a symbol of the mystery of life and that what is beyond words and concepts).  How can we become intimate with coming into being?  Who am I?


To register and for more information please email Michael at michael@gaiabees.com

The course location will be in Sebastopol, CA (exact location will be shared after registration).

Dates: Monday evenings from 7-9:00 pm
January 9 & 23, 2017
February  13 & 27, 2017

By Donation

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Apis Arborea – Honoring Honeybees

Open House and Bee Convocation.

IMG_3908Sunday, July 24, 2016; 1-4 pm

Please join us for a celebration of Honeybees at the ‘Landscape Apiarium’ of Gaia Bees.  We will gather to honor them and connect in intimate ways.  There will be sit-spots to listen and observe, to be silent and inspired.  How can we develop an awareness of our relationships within the biosphere as an interdependent organism?  How can bees be a resource to find home in interdependent and dynamic processes? And how can they inspire to create a mutually beneficial paradigm of life?


You can come for any amount of time, learn about bee-centric ‘nests’, and enjoy just beeing with bees.

We will gather for a Ceremony at 3pm.  Feel free to bring an offering to honor the ‘great Bee’.


Free event. Donations for natural nest sites welcome.

Rsvp not necessary but helpful (gaiabees@gmail.com).


686 Snow Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(Parking is limited- please carpool)

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The Green Gulch Honeybee Sanctuary and Refuge


As we all know, Honeybees still vanish in huge numbers worldwide. Bees are intimately linked to the greater web of life, and their plight is an indicator of global ecological imbalances.  Bees are at the brink of becoming an endangered species.  Honeybees are a keystone species and the well being of the biosphere depends on them.

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The vision of a Honeybee Sanctuary at GGF emerged out of concern for the survival of bees and the health of the global biosphere.  Our vision focuses on developing new approaches to apiculture, understanding of the natural life forces and instinctual needs of bees, and on providing sustainable landscapes and nest sites (hive designs).  The health of the bees will be the primary focus of the Honeybee Sanctuary.

Our goal is to create a self sustaining apiary, which links local wild Honeybees to a bee-centric approach to apiculture.

Green Gulch Farm is located in the midst of Golden Gate National Recreational Area and surrounded by coastal chaparral. National Muir Woods Monument is within the flying range of all Honeybees.


On Arbor day we started this project with an evaluation of wild and managed bee hives in the garden, farm and surrounding landscape. We found that all previously known hives had survived the winter and are now growing with the beginning of early spring. A first log hive was installed in an oak tree to add a natural nest habitat for Honeybees.

The wild Honeybees within the GGF watershed represent the core and center piece of the sanctuary. All bee nests in the watershed are initially evaluated and then monitored throughout the years.  The fundamental values of this new framework reflect the instinctual preferences and wisdom of Honeybees.

There will be three beekeeping classes at Green Gulch throughout the year, where we will share the core principles of this new approach, paired with biodynamic practices and the study of the physiology and morphology of honeybees. The second comes at the end of May, which, like the others later, is open for practicing beekeepers as well as for beginners and all “bee-lovers.” The classes will be a resource for backyard beekeepers to keep their bees more healthy and strong. For more information, go to events.  

(first picture: Wild Honeybee nest at Green Gulch; second picture: New comb in top bar hive at GGF; Newly installed Log Hive at Green Gulch)