Four students came over yesterday to help "hive" our second package of bees. (That's beekeeper lingo for shaking bees out of a shoe-size box into a book-size box.) I'm learning the lingo fast, hoping it will give me confidence. When we learned last summer that the bee population was in decline, my husband, Mark, and I decided to become beekeepers. We spent the year reading, took a beekeeping class for beginners, built our brood frames and supers, and ordered our bees. Mark was out of town when the gentle but weary travelers arrived in Portland, so I hived Lucy, the first "package," to figure out how to do it. Amy, Hannah, Sara, and Allie, who have their own love affair with bees, came to watch and help hive Emma.

"The bee is more honored than other insects, not because she labors, but because she labors for others," said John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople. For Mark and me, beekeeping is less about the honey (though we will enjoy it), and more about preserving the pollinating labor of bees that yield us food. Hives have been hit with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). No one knows for sure what's causing it, but guesses include pesticides, genetically modified foods, effects from transporting bees across the country, cell phones, mites, and disease. The effect of CCD is being discussed in scientific journals, agricultural circles, on NPR, and in Congress.

One theory says that when the bees die, humans have four more years of life on earth. Another suggests that bees are not actually in decline at all. Neither of those lies close to the truth, so I won't grant either credibility by suggesting the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Bee populations are in decline, and the 100 or so fruits and vegetables that need pollinating ...

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