Wednesday, August 14, 2013


This will be my 10 year participating in the annual pilgrimage to the desert for the Burningman festival. For the past 5 years I have been a member of the Zonotopia crew, working on and off the playa to create large art installations. This year is my great honor to be part of the Zonotopia team again. I am also excited to be contributing my own artistic vision to the project: the Zomphalo!

The Zompalo will be the center piece in one of the chambers of the quasicrystaline conjunction of Zonotopia and it is a collaboration with Chris Palmer.

Quasicrystaline Conjunction of Zonotopia 2013 - 3D printed model by Chris Palmer


The Zomphalo is a play on words from the Greek omphalos (ὀμφαλός) and Zonotopia. In Greek, the word omphalos means "navel." According to the ancient Greek mythology, Zeus sent out two eagles to fly across the world to meet at its center, the "navel" of the world. Very similar to the Aztec legend... The Omphalos stone at Delphi is the most important oracle in the ancient world. It resembles a beehive with crisscrossing rows of bee symbols. I have always thought that Zonotopia is a bee hive and I must say that the structure of Zonotopia is similar to the Omphalo.

Omphalo in Delphi archaeologic museum
I saw the original omphalo when I visited Delphi years ago, I meditated in the oracles cave and I took a stone that I still have in my altar. I knew then that Delphi was a powerful spiritual place. Xeno, my good friend and host in Greece, explained that Deplhi was the belly button of the world (It was his idea that I take a stone from Delphi.) However, it wasn't until recently that I learned about the bee symbology and relationship to the Omphalos. I learned this from the sacred path of the bee class with Layne Redmond and Debra Roberts. Layne has done incredible work around bee mythology and frame drumming. She has been an inspiration and a great teacher, although I have not meet her in person. Layne is getting ready to transition from this life and I continue to be impressed at her strength, stamina and gracefulness. She recorded a beautiful CD Music from the hive with her frame drum music mixed with the sound of the hive. The CD has an 18 minute track with just the sound of the hive. I will be playing her music at the Zomphalo. I would like to especially dedicate this piece to her and to all the amazing research, documentation and educational work that she has done around bees.
Honey Bee by Sunny Solwind 
Bees have become a huge part of my life, and I have made a commitment to be a voice for the bees. Bees face many threats including habitat alteration, pesticide use, management practices, and pathogens. One third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared during the 2012 winter, a 42% increase over the year before. Aside from honey bees, there are over 30,000 species of bees, (5,000 found in the U.S) all of them are experiencing population decline. Globally, up to 100,00 animal species die off each year...

Bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States, and one out of every four bites of food people take is courtesy of bee pollination. In sum, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.

The zomphalo is an offering of reverence to our beautiful buzzing pollinators, it is an altar, a meditation space, a prayer, a place to bee. Blessed bee!

Native Australian Bee Hive


Omphalos stones were said to allow direct communication with the gods. Leicester Holland (1933) has suggested that the stone was hollow to channel intoxicating vapours breathed by the Oracle. Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python at Delphi was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo, and buried under the Omphalos, and that it is a case of one god setting up his temple on the grave of another.

The Omphalos at Delphi came to be identified as the stone which Rhea wrapped in swaddling clothes, pretending it was Zeus. This was to deceive Cronus, his father, who swallowed his children so they could not grow up and depose him as he had deposed his own father, Uranus.

While hiding from his father, Zeus was raised by two sister nymphs. One of them was Melissa, she fed him honey. When Cronus discovered this, he turned her into a worm. After Zeus came into power, he changed her into a queen bee, not being able to change her from an insect form. Melissa is the Greek word for honeybee.

The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld.

The priestess of the oracle at Delphi were known as the Delphic Bees - The Melissea. The emblem of a bee was placed on Delphic coins in her honor.

Minoan Bee Goddess, golden plaque, British Museum. Found at Camiros, Rhodes, 7th century BCE.
Bees have been revered as a special spiritual animal in many cultures, traditions and mythologies beyond the Greek. The Hindu great goddess, Kundalini Shakti, manifests as a queen bee surrounded by a swarm of bees and is called Bhramari Devi. When Shakti awakens in a buzz of energy at the base of our spine we experience ascending consciousness to the crown chakra.

Bhramari means bee in Sanskrit. Bhramari pranayama is a traditional yogic practice derived from the buzzing of bees which vibrates and realigns the entire nervous system, brain and body by buzzing the vocal chords.

It is believed that the sound of the hive is the same frequency of the buzzing that we hear when we are in complete silence or when we do bhrameri. This frequency allows us to open a connection to our spirituality, our higher self. More information on Bhramari and the connection to the sound of the hive at this workshop by Layne Redmonds.

Bee altar with Zomphalo, CNC cut bee and spell jar with honey from my hives
My idea is to create a sanctuary where one can meditate and allow for that spiritual connection through the buzzing of the hive. A Place to connect with ourselves, with our higher being, our calling. 
A Place to bee!

Laser cut Zomphalo


The concept was to create a zomphalo with carvings of the Greek bee goddess and small holes to insert amber-like jewels with bees in them. The bee jewels are my way of honoring the bees and place them in their own special shining place.  I also wanted to have enough hidden space at the center of the piece  to have a sound system playing the sound of the hive. We wanted it to be easy to assemble using a similar technic to Zonotopia where the wood interlocks and there is no metal used.

Chris created a mock up model with with laser cutter and we liked it so we built a full scale model for the pre- compression event.

Wozzel being 3D printed 
The full scale model also had 3D printed hexagon honey combs to allow for small viewing spaces into the zomphalo and for the light to shine outwards. Chris also 3D printed the wozzel (This is a word that he coined for the geometrical hive-like 3D prints) to hold the RGB LED lights. The lights were programed to run from white to red, mostly on the yellow, gold colors to resemble to color of the hive.

Here is Chris' description of the Wozzles: "...are made from a 2d polyline that is transformed each small step in the z direction with rotation and scaling controlled by a sine wave function (sometimes sum of sine waves). Sometimes the 2d motif is the same throughout changing only rotation and scale other Wozzles have a dynamic motif that is itself controlled by a sine or cosine wave. Each loop/ polyline is written straight to gcode instructions for the 3d printer by  a program so unlike many 3d printed models there is no mesh (made of triangles) model."

Wozzel honey comb on side panel 
Top view of Zomphalo with wozzel
For the jewels I collected dead bees outside of the hive. It was a battle with the wasps and the spiders who are constantly waiting to eat the dead bees. I had to go back to the hive many times to collect enough bees for the project. This was a really beautiful part of the process as I spent a lot of time outside the hive, just listening, smelling, observing and practicing my bhrameri with the bees.
I also used bees from my mother's hive to represent and honor all the bees that have died to pesticides.

Collecting dead bees outside the hives
I tried making the jewels with hard candy first, but that did not work so well. The candy got all sticky even after I sprayed it with laquer. I decided to use entropy resin. It is a bit of a process and it is dangerous if not mixed properly. It needs to be done outside with a mask, gloves, googles and perfectly mixed otherwise it wont harden properly. I also added an amber dye. I used candy molds to pour the mix and placed the bees with wire. The bees kept floating to the top. It might work better if done on two pours but I did not have the time for 2 pours (nor the patience.) 

Ambar-like resin bee jewels 
The resin worked really well. I'm happy with the result.

Ambar-like resin bee jewels 
The jewels were inserted into the sides of the zomphalo panels and hot glued.

This is the trial build of all the parts before heading out to the playa. The test built work and all the parts fit together perfectly and the tolerances are right. There is space to run all the wiring for the lighting and sound.

The woozel was illuminated and it seems as if the zomphalo was on fire.
RGB LED Illuminated Woosel
We also did a mock up of the Quasicrystalline Conjunction to make sure that it works and we checked to make sure there is enough space to hold the Zomphalo and for people to walk around it.

Quasicrystalline Conjunction and Zonotopia s.w.a.g 
It is looking awesome. I can not wait to see it all built.

Zomphalo test build
Zomphalo ideas on trace hanging on my window
Infinite gratitude to Chris Palmer who has made it possible to manifest my vision into the physical realm with his incredible skills and access to amazing tools (3D printers, laser cutters and CNC routers.)
And to Rob Bell for allowing me to play and express myself in his space. Thank you for believing in me and holding my hand.

I hope that the space we create allows for many experiences to happen. I hope it serves as stage for life. I hope that love is transmitted and radiated. I hope people can find a refuge and an opportunity to bee still and listen. But beyond all, I hope my bee altar brings awareness to the bee Colony Collapse Disorder situation we are faced with and creates a space for people to appreciate, connect and think of actions they can do to help the bees. Plant a garden, stop using pesticides, be mindful of your food and avoid GMO's.

This Zomphalo is a seed that I'm planting and I am hoping it will become a bee sanctuary, a place for bees to thrive, a place for all bee-ings to connect. A place to bee!

With honey in my heart,
Patricia Humming Bee
Zome Mani Padme Zome

Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring work party and making compost tea

 We had a beautiful spring day work party at the Algarden. 

The event was great and one amazing thing happened, none of my friends were there. I say that not because I don't want my friends to be there, I love my friend there! But because at the begging of this Algarden adventure, almost 5 years ago, my friends were the only people there. Now, the Algarden has kind off a life of its own and new people show up, friends of friends and the community grows around the garden. It is beautiful to witness. 

Lots of maintenance was needed, weeding, pruning...

...and harvesting!!!

The bees are looking good. They made it through the winter and now they are building up their hives.
We are hoping to avoid swarming this year.

 The amazing garden fairy Aya, made us lemonade with the abundant Mayer lemon tree and honey

Such an abundance of year round lemons

 The compost is looking great. Filled with bugs!

Colan helped us to turned it and sifted it to get it ready to put on the beds.

Lots of weeding

 Check out the white butterfly against the wall

The chickens were out roaming arround

 Got some starts on the ground

Its a good sign when your friends bring their parents, who are visiting from far away, to see the garden. There are so many sights in the bay area, I'm honored the picked the Algarden as a stop.

Friends of friends, making new friends

With the nice fresh stirred compost Giancarlo showed us how to make compost tea.

Start out with  a ball of compost in an old piece of  fabric

That gets tied up and placed in a large container which gets filled with water

In addition to our compost, Giancarlo added a few more things to the mix.

Beneficial bacteria such as Trichoderma and mycorrhizae

He also added some of this  formula of complex carbohydrates and soy protein extracts to encourage plant vigor, reduce stress, accelerate growth and increase yield

Add molasses for the bacteria to reproduce

And an aerator to accelerate the process and your result is the best organic fertilizer ever!

Some of the benefits of using Compost tea in your garden:

  • Increases plant growth
  • Provides nutrients to plants and soil
  • Provides beneficial organisms to the soil
  • But mostly it helps to suppress diseases on the plants and the soil. It can be applied directly to the leafs of infected plants
  • Overall it makes your plants and your soil stronger

Friday, March 29, 2013

Melipona Beecheii, the Mayan sting-less bee

Melipona Bee guard at hive entry
I just got back from a heavenly vacation in Tulum. The trip was planed around a woman's goddess retreat. The retreat was based on working with our chakras and the archetype of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon, fertility, midwifery, etc. Basically a week to reconnect with our feminine intuitive energy. The timming was set to coincide with the galactic spring equinox! We joined the locals ceremony at the Mayan ruins of the observatory at the edge of the blessed waters of Yemanja. I had the great pleasure and honor of actively participate in the ceremony by translating the entire ceremony. During our retreat, we also did a temazcal in the jungle next to a Cenote and a Mayan clay ceremony where we buried ourselves in the beach to release everything that we no longer need to mother earth and then jumped in the ocean to rinse the clay and the sand and play in the waves. The retreat was followed by visits to great childhood and high school friends and a surprise visit from my beautiful cousin Diego. A gift from life to be able to allow myself such experiences. 
Ah-Muzen-Cab, the Mayan Bee God
It is hard to explain exactly how but, I was guided to Tulum by the bees. Images of what archeologist believe is Ah Mucen Cab appear throughout the ruins of Tulum. Archeologist belive that Ah Mucen Cab was the patron of Tulum and that the region produced a lot of honey. Bees are a symbol of fertility and abundance. For the Mayas, bees also represent a link to the spirit world. I can see that, as they have become that spiritual link for me.
Bees have become my guides and teachers. I wanted to visit the bees during my visit so I did some research and found the Research and Rescue Center for the Melipona Maya in Tulum. The Melipona beecheii is one of the native sting-less bees which is an engendered species. 

Melipona Maya Centro de Investigacion y  Rescate - Tulum, Mexico
I set up a visit to the center with Stefan Palmiere, the bee keeper and director. Stefan was really nice and not only spent lots of time talking to me about the bees, he also opened the hives for me to see and experience the bees. He poured honey on my hand and the bees came to drink it. Most precious experience and feeling. So beautiful and sweet.

Melipona beecheii
I talked to Stefan about my spiritual connection with the bees. He said he was only a farmer, a simple bee keeper and that he did not have such a spiritual connection with the bees but he knows that there is a lot to be learned from the bees. He told me that back in France he had over 600 Apis hives but that it is very hard to keep Apis bees in that area because they are all Africanized. He has to wear two bee suits to work with them and it is so hot in that region that it is almost impossible to do the work.

Melipona brood hive and Mayan god Ah Mucen Cab holding a hive
He told me about all the challenges with the bees, the veroa mites which affect all bees. Also the beetles are destroying entire apiaries. Many apiaries have been quarantined and some are talking about burning all their hives to try to prevent further infection and eradicate the beetle, which spreads easily from apiary to apiary.

Melipona Beecheii
Another big challenge that all bees are facing is the loss of habitat due to human  deforestation. And now, the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) corn and soy to the Yucatan peninsula, which is a real shame and a crime in the land of the corn people. Corn GMO seeds threaten the native corn diversity, the pollinators, and in turn the livelihood of farmers and the health of the consumers eating them. We all need to get informed about GMO's and stop consuming them. It is one of the biggest things we can do to help our furry buzzing friends, our ecosystem and our health. This issue is especially timely as Obama just signed H.R. 933, which contains the   Monsanto Protection Act into law. You can sign a petition requiring mandatory labeling of GMO's here.

Melipona hive
The mysterious sudden disappearance of apparently healthy hives, known as Colony Collapse Disorder is a global problem at all scales. I have lost a few hives to CCD. It is the most unsettling feeling and all bee keepers are experiencing it. Unfortunately it has become the standar to expect 50% loss of all hives. This is a huge problem for comercial bee keepers who's livelihood depend on the health of bees. There are many theories about this problem, most of them, I believe, are made up ideas to cover up the big white elephant on the room: pesticides. Especially the powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which are incorporated directly into the plants themselves. That is what GMO seeds do, they have their own pesticides. Bees are driven to different mono-crops all over the country to pollinate. Some of  this crops contain neonicotinoids or are sprayed with other pesticides. Bees have no other source of nectar or pollen and they consume what is available. It seems pretty clear to me, if you feed pesticides to your bees and other pollinators they will die. We are also being fed the same, it is just killing us slower than the bees, but they are a good indicator of the unbalance of our food system. Check out this article on the New York Times about the increasing loss of comercial bees this year. This is a critical time to save our  pollinators.

Back to Stefan. He was delighted to find the Melipona in Tulum and be able to continue his work with bees. He is working with the Melipona not only because they are so docile but also because of the historical reference to the Maya bee keeping tradition in the region. He is now focused on propagating hives to preserve the species and teach people about the Mayan ancient tradition of Melipona bee keeping. He says most local people can remember their parents or grandparents having Meliponas but not so much on this generation. He thinks is important to continue the tradition on this generation to preserve the tradition and prevent a lost art by skipping a generation. The Meliponas are endangered and it is necessary to get more people involved in the care of the bees.

Melipona hive
The hives of the Meliponas are very different than the Apis. The create their hives in empty logs with a brood pyramid on the center and oval container on the sides to hold the honey and the pollen. They produce a lot less honey than the apis so they are not as commercially viable. However their honey is believed to be extremely medicinal and used by midwifes to induce labor and after birth to heal. It is also used to cure cataracts and skin and throat issues.

Native bee hive on wood log

Stefan is working on propagating the bees so he has created a wood box to keep the hives that he is dividing. He had just taught a workshop the weekend I arrived so he had a lot of new hives on his garden. I liked the water channel he created around the hives area to keep the ants out.

Melipona hives
The Melipona queen also looks very different than the Apis. She has a really wide abdomen. The Apis queen has a longer abdomen but no so wide. We were lucky to spot a few queens as we opened the hives.

Melipona Queen
As I was leaving, saying good bye to Stefan, I looked down to my chest and there was one bee holding on to my dress right on my heart. I was so excited and Stefan mockingly said to me "You probably think there is some big spiritual meaning on that right?" and I said "of course, there is a bee holding on to my heart, she wants to go with me" we both laugh and he said he thought the bee was lost and I should take it back to hive, so I did. I spent a little while alone with the bees, thank them for their time and promised to visit them again.

Melipona beechiis
Stefan named me the San Francisco Melipona ambassador. I received the title with great honor and commitment to help him on his cause. He is starting a foundation and needs funds to do the work. I promised to help him find supporters. So keep your eyes out, for soon you will be able to adopt a hive and help Stefan continue his great work to preserve the Meliponia.

Thank you Stefan. I hope to see you and your bees very soon!

In case you are not inspired about pollinators yet, I leave you with this beautiful video
The beauty of Pollination and if you want to read more about the Melipona check out this article in National Geographic. And if you are wondering what you can do to help the bees, plant a garden with local blue and purple flowers, they love those colors and they need the healthy nectar.

Whith honey in my heart, blessed bee.