Friday, January 17, 2014

Since you’ve been gone…..

All that’s left is a band of gold.  I’m singing that song in my head to the bygone bees of the last 10+ years since I started beekeeping.  When I started back then, a lot of old timers were getting out.  It wasn’t the same, they said.  I chalked it up to old-timer resistance to change.  They didn’t like all the chemicals, and honey harvests were poor.  I didn’t know what they were talking about - in my first year beekeeping, I harvested 240 pounds from two first-year colonies with enough left over to successfully overwinter both hives.  I didn’t use chemicals on my bees, never have since and never will.

It was never so fine again.  I came to understand what was different over the years, witnessing greater pest and disease loads, vanishing forage and heart-breaking contortions of bees dying en masse.  On the plus side, I’ve seen the resurgence of urban agriculture, including bee-keeping.  I’m pleased to begin writing about my efforts to establish bee hives at our new home just East of Lake Harriet, a neighborhood where people are gardening, GHOs court boisterously at night, and coyotes and bunnies share the streets with dog walkers, skiers, bikers and school children.

Wedding Photo: Dancing with Dad
And that band of gold?  Well, after 28 years as a couple, Carolyn and I got married this year, a happier occurrence than the song would indicate.  But the band of gold I’m thinking of as I write this post is the circle of pollen left in the crown of a composite ray-flower, with too few pollinators left to harvest it.  I’m a little sheepish to admit it, but one of the reasons I am excited about out new house is the giant old crabapple in the front yard, and the oddly pollarded lindens all along the side of the house.  Bee trees galore.  I hope to have two hives, if the neighbors all allow.  Our backyard neighbors have a highly allergic family member, but will gladly consent anyway.  That bodes well for the others, I hope.

A friend sent me a link to a great article about how Australian researchers are using technology to study the problems plaguing bees.  It was great for the research description as well as for the fun of seeing technology employed with such delicacy and skill:

So there is hope, even though in China people are conscripted to go out into the fields and hand-pollinate crops with small brushes because the pollinators are too few.  Sadly, some think this is an improvement, because they do a better job than the insects.

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