Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First reunion with the bees

"The appeal of beekeeping is that the bees let you witness all their miracles"
~ Holley Bishop, author of "Robbing the Bees"

I've been visiting the beeyard the last few weeks hoping for some sign of activity, but except for a few lone bees that emerged when we checked the weight of the hives (when you lift the back end a heavy-ish hive suggests that the bees have enough foodstocks to make it through to spring) there was disappointing quiet. I feared that we'd lost our bees to the cold, mites or starvation.

But when I visited the beeyard today, it was just teeming with life.

The bees have been clustered tightly in their hives since the weather turned cold and stayed cold late last November. But with today's balmy 15 degree Celsius temperatures, they decided to venture out for their cleansing flight. (That's a polite way of saying they come out of the hive to poop. That's a good thing, because poop in the hive is an indicator of sick bees.)

I've been thinking a lot about these wee creatures lately. It's been a mild winter, but as this is our first year overwintering bees, I wasn't sure what to expect. But then again, even the most experienced beekeepers can't predict what'll happen with the bees this year -- or any year really.

To say I was overjoyed when I saw that both colonies have made it this far (though one is much stronger than the other) is a vast understatement. In the short time that I've been keeping bees, I've fallen hard for these tiny, mesmerizing, industrious beings. I'd say I'm smitten.

The saying "to be busy like a bee" is something of a disservice to bees, because no human is ever as busy as a bee. Their entire reason for being is built on service -- to their queen, to each other and for the betterment of their colony. Even today the bees were working at getting ready for new spring brood, by dragging all the winter debris and dead bees out of the hives. Such drama.

The weather is supposed to turn cold again over the next few days and the bees will most likely hole up in their hives until the flowers and trees start to blossom and they can once again forage for first nectar and early pollen.

I look forward to our next reunion, though it's by no means assured. It's a dangerous time for bees. Their winter stores need to last until they can forage again. At first blush, beekeeping seems like a straightforward practice, but it's hard work keeping bees alive -- and it's worth it.

I still have so much to learn from the bees and I'm just getting acquainted with their magic, but already they've provided a glimpse into the wondrous and complex web of nature that surrounds me. Then there's the honey -- truly the best I've ever tasted. Such a gift.

As Bishop writes in her book about her six-year journey as a beekeeper: "My sense of wonder, admiration, and respect for the bees has deepened and matured. They have sweetened my life in so many ways. Beekeeping is an endlessly satisfying passion, education and reward. Looking at the snowy winter hives, I wonder what new lessons, treasures and flavours the bees will bring me in the spring. I know that if I take care of them, they'll take care of me."

1 comment:

Erin said...

Great news about all the bee activity, congrats on a successful winter-over!

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