On the way to visit my neighbor, I stopped to admire a clump of spring bulbs blooming in her yard. Look who else was enjoying the flowers! Sweet!
My Dad was a beekeeper and I was the beekeeper’s assistant. My job was to keep the smoker going which was good for me because I liked staying far enough away from the hive that the chance of being stung was minimal. The smoker is a metal can with smoldering paper inside that pumps smoke into the hive. It tricks the bees into thinking that the hive might be on fire. Just in case they have to abandon home, their natural instinct is to swallow as much honey as they can and doing so makes them rather docile. Dad had quite a few hives and each colony had its own personality. Some were rather aggressive but there were others that he didn’t even need a beekeeper’s suit to work with!
Though I kept my distance, I knew what the inside of the bee community was like. We had a hive INSIDE our house! Daddy built the observation hive which was like a fat, double-paned window with a wooden frame and honey comb between the panes. When one of his hives swarmed he lured them into their new home with honey and that night he plugged their entry port and moved the hive indoors.
It sat just inside our playroom and the bees came and went through a portal running to the outside. I would sit for hours watching the hive, a silent witness to all the activity normally hidden away in the depths of a bee tree or an apiary.
The artistry of the bees is beyond compare: the perfect symmetry of the honeycomb, the brilliant hues of the honey and wax, the choreography of the dance that guides worker bees to a new found source of nectar, the fragile transparency of wings. All of these things and more fascinated this young artist and scientist.
Honey bee populations have been declining in recent years. Insecticides and a vicious parasite have taken quite a toll. My little bee was shortly joined by another and I’m hoping that she came from a wild hive thriving somewhere in a bee tree nearby.
These insects are truly amazing in so many ways but my posts are not meant to be biology lessens. Rather a sharing of the nature experiences that have helped me “develop a boundless ethic that includes all living things” and to appreciate all life’s little pleasures.
“Tending the Hive”, watercolor by Karen Hines