Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

I was about to clip some lavender and spotted a few honey bees in the lavender bush. Watching them flying around lavender blossom took me back to that day when I made my connection with them. Like most girls, I was not particular fond of insects especially ones that sting. Most insects are not cute to me. The buzzing sound of bees were scary until very recently.

The campus where I take my horticulture classes has a few bee boxes. We check on the bees regularly as a class activity. I normally stayed further away than most people. I have never been stung by a bee, but base on what I know about myself, I am nearly 100% sure that I am allergic to bee stings. My skin swells up at the slightest irritation. I am often covered with red rashes just from being around weeds. The rashes usually go away on their own, so I stopped thinking much about it.

On May 2, 2010, I was hanging out on the campus farm when someone spotted a swarm of bees. The few people from my class who stayed late were very excited at the opportunity of capturing the swarm. Now you wonder how you are going to "capture" a swarm of 400-700 bees? My mentor, Master Ken, will tell you to be very slow, gentle, and calm, and you will then be able to sweep the swarm of bees into a paper bag with your bare hand. He has described this process to us in the class, but it had not been witnessed by us.

They found the actual swarm resting on top of a tree while the loose bees were flying around in search of a new home. The guys went and got 2 ladders in order to reach the bees on the tree. They also got a cardboard tube to put the bees in. They had to carry all these things and climb over a tall wire fence to get to the tree with the bees.

It took them about an hour to come back to the campus side of the fence with a tube of bees. I was too wimpy to get over the fence to where the swarm was. I didn't even want to hold the tube of bees in my hands. However, as I watched the others (yes, there were girls, too!) handling the bees without any protective clothing, I grew more confident. The bees meant us no harm. They were peacefully doing their own thing.

For the first time I got close to the bee boxes so I could take a closer look at them. They were these fuzzy creatures with big eyes. When they returned to the boxes from working, they carried pollen sacks on their hind legs! How cute! I tasted the sweetness of fresh pure honey from the hive, too. Nobody got stung that day.

That day I made a connection with honey bees. I know I am not quite ready to keep my own boxes on Sand Village Farm, but I no longer flinch from the buzzing sound of their wings. If they need to take a break on my shoulder, I am okay with that.

See The Secret Life of Bees photo album for more pictures from May 2, 2010.

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