A Blind California Beekeeper Relies on the Power of Sound

How beehives gave her a new lease on life.

When Marin nurse Aerial Gilbert was blinded by contaminated eye drops in 1988, she lost her marriage, her job and much of a will to live. A former beekeeper, she turned back to her old hobby to bring her back to life. Now, she tends to thousands of bees, gathering information and anticipating their needs, with the aid of her ears.

According to KQED, “Whenever Gilbert is out working on the hives, she is listening to them, keeping tabs on how they sound. She also bought some microphones to make recordings inside the hive. Those recordings give her an audio snapshot of the bees’ condition and more specific insight into what’s happening inside the hives. She can hear the waggle dance, which is the movement bees make to tell others where to find pollen.

“Not only can Gilbert hear the dance, she has started to notice variations in the sound depending on where the pollen is located.

“’The dance, it kind of happens in a little circle,” Gilbert said. “You’ll hear ‘bzzz bzzz bzzz,’ and it’s different patterns depending on how far away the pollen is.’”

Listen to Gilbert’s inspiring story here.

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