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Building the Hive Illustration by Vivian Rosas

Building the Hive

Erin James-Abra always knew she wanted a family. She just couldn’t predict what shape it would take.

When I was seven months pregnant, I learned most bees live alone. I edit an encyclopedia for a living, and the first draft of an article titled “Bees” had just arrived in my inbox. Up until that moment, I thought that all bees lived in hives, congregating in the thousands to make light of life’s daily chores. My desk’s retractable keyboard tray pressed uncomfortably against my swollen belly, but I leaned closer to the computer screen anyway, eager to know more.

When a lone bee is ready to birth, she builds herself a nest, usually in the ground or in the spongy stems of plants like raspberries or blackberries. She digs a hallway in the earth and adds adjoining rooms, one for each of her young. She drags dirt into each room and lines the walls with it. Then she paints the walls with a sort of saliva ...

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