Monday, June 20, 2011

Migrant Workers

People often ask us about our honey bees. it is a well known fact that there are issues with the American honey bee population, so every gardener is concerned and spends an ample amount of time worrying over their pollinators or absence thereof. I have toyed with the idea of having a bee hive, and have read a few books on the subject. But so far our wide variety of pollinators, and our old fashioned bee tree has held us in good stead. But there is something unique about our bees. Or should I say that having not read up on old fashioned bee tree honey bees, I assume it is unique. Our bees do not winter over.

Sometime in the fall, the activity in the hive will cease. Come spring, there will be a disconcerting silence. But one day, usually corresponding with the blooming of the white clover, you will go to check the bee tree and it will be a hive of activity (excuse the pun). I have witnessed the exit of the swarm, and Tim was fortunate enough to witness their return.

Late last week I saw that my cucumbers have begun to bloom. Naturally, this made me anxious for the honey bees. I noticed around Friday or Saturday that the white clover in our large backyard had begun to bloom, but again, there was a worrisome silence. And then today, they were back. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, or the Monarchs to Santa Cruz... the honey bees have returned to our garden.

Tim happened to be outside working on our old garage which is 50 feet from the bee tree when he heard a humming. Not a mechanical humming, but the sort of humming that stirs your primordial soul and sends quivers up your spine. As I mentioned, I've seen this process in reverse, and it is something you will never forget. In true "husband of dedicated Blogger" fashion, he hurried for the camera.

Since neither Tim nor I are experienced photographers, we often run into frustrations without point and shoot digital skills. Add to that the fear of being stung by thousands of agitated bees, and you can imagine the range of photos you end up with.

The bees came in for a landing, hovering in what I can only describe as a mini tornado. When the swarm comes in it is at least a dozen feet across, and fifty plus feet high. They headed straight for the bee tree, but it took them quite awhile to get organised. There is only one main entrance to the tree and the first comers land en masse on the bark while the rest continue their frantic circling outside.

Here their flight shows up as "flecks" of bees.

The clouds are peppered with bees.

The bees have a busy afternoon ahead of them. Besides queuing up to get in, there is a lot of housekeeping to do, and everyone has to choose their room, and unpack. It makes you wonder where they've been and how far they've traveled. I'm glad they remember about our white clover, and the inviting bee tree. I have also planted a host of enticing perennials and the borage will soon be in bloom. Welcome to my garden. I hope you stay awhile.


  1. When I read your posts I seriously wonder sometimes if you manage to read my mind before you write them. I spent most of the day riding around on the tractor clipping pastures and thinking guessed it....bee trees, and how bears (and some of the hillbillies I grew up with) raid them for honey !

    Your posts put a smile on my face and I look forward to reading each new installment. I hope you stay awhile ! :)

  2. While grateful they are there, I'm thinking that swarm would have worried me just a bit...

  3. I know very little about bees, other than their value in the garden. A work colleague got badly stung by her own bee colony (she sells honey) and she's trying to work out why she was attacked. I think the Queen had died, but not sure how this affects the colony in terms of aggression.