6 Lessons from the Keeper Children of Alphor

Book 2 of the Silent Skies trilogy, The Hive Child, released on all platforms recently and, in it, we meet an extraordinary group of children: The Keeper kids of Alphor.

SPOILER ALERT: If you're going to read on, be aware that this blog post contains some spoilers about both The Last Beekeeper and The Hive Child.

Like Warren, the five youngsters we meet in The Hive Child have a special ability to communicate with insects. Each has their own particular species with which they're able to connect. When we first meet them, the children are hidden in a forest glade to the north of the village of Skyheart. Here, they nurture their insects and are kept secret from people who would wish to use them to gain power and influence.

None of the children are older than ten years old, but all of them have some important wisdoms to share.

So here, I introduce you to each child and give you a lesson they'd like to teach you from their insect!

1. Leiff: Keeper of Ashy Mining Bees

Leiff is a few months older than Warren with brown skin, dark brown eyes and bouncy brown curls. She is sweet-natured and gentle, and is the first to greet Warren and Solma when they discover the glade of insect children.

Leiff is the Keeper of Ashy Mining bees, a species of solitary bees that make their nests in packed earth.

The females dig burrows, in which they lay their eggs, providing them with pollen and nectar before they then seal up the nest. Although they sometimes nest in groups or communes, they exist and flourish as individuals. Each female lays her own eggs, filling up her nest before moving on to dig another.

Leiff is native to the village of Skyheart. She grew up with her uncle and aunt after her parents died of a wasting disease when she was two years old. Leiff discovered her power at roughly the same age as Warren and her uncle and aunt, fearful for her safety, handed her over to Norsen's care.

We never meet Leiff's family in The Hive Child, but Leiffi is probably one of the more well adjusted children in the glade.

Leiff tends her insects diligently, but ashy mining bees don't live very long and, in their short, solitary lives, they face many dangers. So this is what Leiff has to say about them:

My bees like living in the ground. In burrows. Life's pretty hard for them. They got lotsa predators and it hurts my heart every time a mother bee gets eaten. But they keep going, keep flying out every morning even though it's dangerous. They gotta tend their eggs, keep their babies safe, or it's all for nothing. I reckon we can learn from my bees that you always gotta keep the Earth beneath your feet. You gotta step out into the world every day, even though it's scary. 'Cos if you don't, you'll never get to really love. Be brave like an ashy mining bee.

2. Tobias: Keeper of Holly Blue Butterflies

Tobias has white skin and lots of freckles, red-brown hair and brown eyes. He's about six months younger than Warren. He's exuberant and excitable, but can also be shy. He's good-hearted, but easily led. He has a caring personality, though, and tends to want to comfort or look after the other children.

Tobias' insects are holly blue butterflies. As their name suggests, these butterflies are bright blue, but the females have wings edged in black.

They are small butterflies that like a temperate climate and tend to emerge in early spring.

Unlike Leiff, Tobias is not native to Skyheart. He ran away from his village when the Steward threatened to kidnap him and kill his parents, wanting to control his power. Afraid, Tobias' parents got ready to run away with Tobias, but were caught and killed. Tobias managed to escape and was found by a boy called Ig (he's quite important in The Hive Child!) Ig was around ten at the time and he took care of Tobias. Both the boys arrived in Skyheart the winter before The Hive Child starts, and Tobias found safety in the glade with the other Keeper children.

Tobias is very sensitive to his insects' needs and spends a great deal of time observing them. Butterflies are very short-lived creatures and have no defined social structure, so they're often flighty and difficult to communicate with. But Tobias has this message from them:

My butterflies don't live all that long. Few weeks at the most, after they come outta their chrysalis. But they try to live as brightly as they can. They're delicate and small and lots of things eat them, so they gotta live fast. They wake with the sun, and make the most of every second of sunlight. They can teach us to make the most outta things, 'cos their lives are fleeting and we all gotta make the most of the sun.

3. Jonah: Keeper of False Oil Beetles

Jonah is the youngest of the Keeper children in the glade.

At only five, he's often frightened by the weight of responsibility and, though the other children are very good at taking care of him, it's no substitute for having a parent.

Jonah isn't from Skyheart. He was carried to the village by his sister and neither of them will speak of whatever it was that befell them in their home. Jonah's sister was accepted into the village, where she spent time recovering. But Jonah was placed in the insect glade, hidden away for his own safety.

Jonah's insects are a point of contention among the other Keepers.

False Oil Beetles are predatory insects that lay in wait on flowers until an unsuspecting pollinator comes along so that they can snare it and lay their eggs on it.

The pollinator - usually a species of ground-dwelling solitary bee - then unwittingly carries the beetle eggs back to its nest, where the beetle larvae hatch and eat the eggs and young of the bee. In the glade, the only ground dwelling bees for Jonah's beetles to feed off are Leiff's ashy mining bees.

Jonah has white skin and blonde hair. His eyes are grey and he's a serious child. He's often teased by Nessa, one of the other Keeper children, and finds this hard to cope with. Despite the fact that his beetles predate the other insects of the glade, Jonah is accepted by the other children. Jonah has this message from his beetles:

Thing is, I know it seems kinda awful that the beetles eat the bees. But that's how life works, really. Everything is joined together. Without the bees, the beetles would die. Predators make sure the prey they're eating doesn't get so so there's too many. And the beetles pollinate he flowers, too. It's hard, sometimes, to like a thing when it lives differently to us. But we gotta have respect for all life. The bees and the beetles. We don't get to pick and choose what animals deserve to live. We ain't gods. That's the thing.

4. Nessa: Keeper of Marmalade Hoverflies

Nessa is younger than Warren by about a year. She has black skin, black hair and brown eyes. She's full of life, often exuberant to the point of mischief, but also cares a lot about her insects and the other Keeper children.

She doesn't always get it right, but at only seven, who can blame her? She's also not afraid to stand up for herself or her friends.

Nessa's insects are Marmalade hoverflies. Although none of the children of Skyheart have ever tasted marmalade, they all understand that the hoverfly was named for its colour. It's abdomen is orange - like marmalade! - with black bands across it.

These hoverflies can actually be seen all year round, but are most active in summer when there are lots of flowers to eat.

Their larvae are important pest controllers, because they eat aphids and other small insects that might harm crops. As adults, they are nectar feeders and zip from flower to flower to eat. This makes them important pollinators. Though they look like little bees, they have no stings and they have an excitable, darting flight. They're gentle creatures and their solitary nature means that their communication is a little all over the place, but Nessa manages to keep them in check.

Nessa is also not native to Skyheart. Somehow, she made it to the village alone, after fleeing her own. Her family didn't really understand her power and thought she was summoning pests to decimate their crop. Angered, the village threatened to lock her up or kill her and Nessa, terrified, ran for her life.

With nothing but her Yuen-caste clothes and some hole-ridden shoes, she trekked across the Alphorian wilderness.

For a time, she was taken in and cared for by some nomadic Whisperers, and when the Whisperers passed close to Skyheart, Nessa felt the signal given off by the other Keeper children and snuck into the village. Norsen immediately recognised her power and placed her in the glade with the other children.

Nessa's hoverflies are nervous, flighty creatures, but also full of joy. Here's the message Nessa has from them:

My hoverflies are happy things. Even though they're tiny and don't really have a way to defend themselves, they love the world and when I hear their delicate little song, I know they find joy in everything around them. I reckon that's important. There's some bad in the world, but there's lotsa good, too. We gotta find joy in even small things. A sunny day, or a pretty flower, or a song that makes us happy. That's what life's for.

5. Yennevieve: Keeper of Alphorian Honeybees

Yennevieve is a little older than Warren and the oldest of the Keeper children at nine years old. She is native to Skyheart and the daughter of Norsen, the village Steward. She is white-skinned with nut-brown hair and brown eyes, with a green streak through the left eye. She is determined and brave, though also worries a great deal about the safety of her bees.

Yenn discovered her power only eight months or so before the story of The Hive Child begins.

But she has come into her ability quickly, and learned a great deal about how her insects live.

With her father's support, she has been able to build hives for tthe colonies of bees she cares for. Yenn feels very responsible for the other children, and often takes on the role of carer for them.

Yennevieve's bees are perhaps the best known of all bee species. The honeybee. They've been domesticated by humans for thousands of years.

Highly social creatures, they live in colonies of up to seventy thousand or so and are one of the most inspiring examples of insect democracy.

While they do have a single queen bee, who is the mother of most, if not all, the workers in the colony, it is the workers, and not the queen, that collectively make decisions for the colony. They are one of only very few species of bee that makes honey and they communicate through scent ... and dancing!

Yennevieve's bees are industrious, determined and put the survival of the colony above the survival of the individual. Yenn has this message from them:

My bees know how to work together. They listen to each other and the make decisions by dancing. Everything is decided by the swarm annd there's nothing more amazing than a honeybee colony in perfect harmony. Us humans, we mess this up all the time. We're greedy. We try to trick each other to get what we want. But bees know that their survival depends on them all telling the truth, on them all working together. I think, in lots of ways, that's true of humans, too. We have to learn to work together. We have to learn to tell the truth.

6: Warren: The Hive Child

Warren is Solma's beloved little brother, and the only child from Sand's End village to have discovered a power to communicate witth insects. When he discoveres the glade at Skyheart, he's delighted to find other children with a similar power to him.

But of course, Warren is particularly special, because whereas the otther youngsters can only communicate with one species of insect each, Warren has the ability to talk with them all.

Warren looks like almost everyone else from Sand's End. He has white skin, lots of freckles, a stocky stature wiith red-blode hair and green eyes. He is determined and full of life, and loves his sister Solma, even though she infuriates him a lot of the time. Warren is one of the main characters in The Last Beekeepeer, so we know him well. Although Warren can speak with all the insects, his favourites are the buff-tailed bumblebees, which were the first he was able to communicate with when he discovered his power.

But Warren is learning how to connect with many insects and understand their various songs and languages. This is what he's learned from them:

The thing is, the world needs all types of animals to stay healthy. We need the insects that polinate the plants, the insects that eat other insects, the insects that feed the rodents and stuff. We need insects that come out in the day, and insects tthat come out at night. The whole world is all joined together and no animal is more important than any other. If the world's gonna heal, we got to protect them all. We got to larn to love and appreciate them all.

BONUS - Addie: Keeper of Peacock Butterflies

There's one Keeper child that we don't meet until right at the end of The Hive Child, and that's Addie. At the beginning of the book, Addie is missing, presumed kidnapped. She's the niece of Skyheart's captain, Reya. Reya is a talented soldier but she and Norsen are distrustful of each other and Reya has a habit of disobeying his orders.

Addie has brown skin and black curls. She's a determined child and was the first youngster to discover her powers in Skyheart.

When we meet her, she's been trapped underground for a long time and cut off from her insects, which were dying without her.

Addie's insects are peacock butterflies, a small but colourful species of butterfly. In the book, they struggle to survive without their Keeper. This is Addie's lesson from them:

Sometimes, life is hard. It's always hard for insects. For butterflies, you gotta live quickly, try not to get eaten, find a mate and lay your eggs. You only got a short time to do that. But the thing about my butterflies is that, even when they was struggling, they kept fighting. Kept hoping I'd return. We all gotta keep fighting and keep hoping. We gotta hope more than we gotta do anything.


The Keeper children of Alphor will return, along with Solma, Warren, Olive and their friends, in the final book of the Silent Skies trilogy.

Keep an eye out for further news of War Song of the Wild and it's upcoming release!


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