Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Peace is the Sound of Thousands of Bees

Peace is the sound of thousands of bees strumming the air with their wings. Yesterday, I was able to get down to the beeyard to check on the hives. I was concerned that with the vigorous dandelion bloom, they would have packed all their available cells with pollen and nectar, and neglected their brood-raising tasks.

When I first started beekeeping, I had a magical summer of perfect, warm days and the mellowest bees ever. I visited my hives every 3 to 4 days (those were the days of cheap gas). I had swarmy Italian girls, who built lots and lots of burr comb and swarm cells. When bees are thinking about leaving their hive, they build swarm cells with the intention of raising up a new queen who will take them to new digs. As a result, every trip to the beeyard, I ended up dismantling the hive and scraping off tons and tons of wax.

When the hives were dismantled, the bees circled the beeyard, fed on drips of honey streaming from burr comb, crawled on me, crawled on the other hives, or went on foraging in the nearby dandelions and clover. The air was golden, the bees' humming was dense and contented, and I was outside of time and space, moving deliberately, moving slowly, moved and moving.

I haven't had a summer or bees like that since. I think part of the reason is I started to think too much in the beeyard. Planning and managing things that don't need to be planned and managed. Yesterday, reversing all the hives and replacing some broken frames took far less time than usual. It was gratifying to observe that the hive I was worried about had proved to be graced with a fecund queen. It was frustrating to see that the hive in the SE portion of the yard was not thriving, as hives in that position never do, despite my efforts to provide optimal shelter and light conditions. When I was replacing the top cover to that hive, I paused to watch several clusters of bees there. One cluster dispersed and revealed their bright gold enormous queen. Had I clapped the cover on as I had planned, I might have crushed her. I took her in hand and made a causeway to the circular opening in the lowest brood box. She paused, then processed in to her tribe. She appears to be one of those layers who fills cells vertically only, not building out the brood nest beyond two facing surfaces of frame. In case she did this because it has been cooler and a larger brood nest harder to keep warm, I adjusted the wind break to give her more afternoon sun. I shifted the frames with brood to the center of the colony, in hope that this would spur her insect imagination. Next time, I'll remove this hive to another place on the farm if she still struggles. There is a little opening in the trees, next to the peacock enclosure near the hawthorns that they might like.

This year, my bees are proving to be mild tempered. The Italian subspecies of bees is known for that. I'm glad I got Italians this year. I need a little tenderness. I want to have more of those magical days in this beeyard. I may have my hives elsewhere next year - on land we buy or that my brother owns in Minneapolis. This place, edged with wild plums on one side, a box elder copse on the other, has been a refuge from the city, from death, from illness, from petty concerns and from catastrophe. It has been a destination where my friendship with two dear women deepened and become familial.

Yesterday the sound of peace was in the air. My hair curled around my ears under my hat and veil, bees crawled on my arms and legs, and I felt every light touch as blessings from that place that is always there, always with me if I will only open up and go there.


twinsetellen said...

This was a small piece of grace.

pbird said...


HB III said...

Kathy -
What a wonderful piece/peace. I have listened with interest to a series of stores on WNYC about "guerilla" beekeepers re-introducing bees to the city. You can search on their site to follow, but here is a link to one: