Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bees in the trees


A swarm of honeybees invaded the farm last weekend. While this may sound like a scary Hitchcock movie, the fact is, honeybees are our friends. We need them, and not just for their honey. They help pollinate crops, which make food. And they help pollinate flowers. So not only do they help feed the world, they make it pretty, also.

Yet honeybees are disappearing. Whole colonies have been dying out, not just in North America but in Europe and Australia, too. A new documentary called Queen of the Sun takes a look at this crisis. I haven't seen it  . . . yet.

In the meantime, we should be afraid. Not of the bees, but of what things might be like without them.

Anyway, so for years now, we've been trying to do things to make our farm more hospitable to honeybees: everything we can think of from planting certain types of flowers they love to eliminating pesticides and certain chemicals. We've even thought about having our own hives. So when the swarm of bees seemed interested in our tree, we were excited.

Mom & Dad's dentist is a hobby apiculturist, so they gave him a call and asked him to come out and advise us. We all agreed that the swarm, or colony, or whatever you call it, wouldn't really be happy in this tree because it's too close to human and canine activity and we didn't any species to be agitated by the other. So Dr. C shook the tree limb and the bees fell into a special bee box. Dr. C told us that if they liked the bee box, they'd make it their home and we could move it to another place on the farm. He promised to come back in 8-10 hours to see if they were still in the box.

The bees stuck around for a while, and we thought they were acclimating to the box. But three hours later, for no apparent reason, they began gathering into a swarm outside of the box. As if part of one brain, they collected themselves into a large black blob. And then they flew away.

I (for one) was really disappointed. But I hope the bees found a more suitable home, and I hope that they'll survive . . . and thrive. 'Cause we need bees. Really, we do.