The Buzz

I’ve been struggling to find some clever way to start this post, to write the hook I need to pull you in and I’m failing miserably. Miserably. So, because my brain is fogged with the ridiculous heat we’re dealing with, I’ll just say that it’s about bees. Yeah. Bees. The kind that make honey, that bumble flower to flower, that kamikaze in defense of their homes, that, in conjunction with birds, create a happy little euphemism for sex. And sex is sexy, so maybe that’s all the hook I really need.

Clever me.

So, the bees. We set up a hive in mid April. Anne’s cousin, Brian, made all the arrangements for the bees and we took care of the materials: the hive body, the supers, the frames, the feeding troughs. We provided them a steady diet of syrup (sugar and water) and we’d pull off the hive cover and the inner cover on a nearly daily basis and ogle them from a distance. Yesterday, we got up close and personal. Brian came up from Columbus and he and Anne cracked the hive, pulled out the frames and checked out the action. The news could have been better.

Brian Erchenbrecher examining a frame from The Quarry Farm hive.

While the bees had developed new comb on the frames, there wasn’t nearly enough. And, again, while there were eggs and signs of developing brood, there wasn’t much and indications are that the developing brood are mostly drones. What are drones, you ask? They’re ne’er-do-well playboys, eating the nectar and giving back nearly nothing. They have no stinger, so they can’t protect the hive. They have no pollen sacs, so they can’t gather food. Their idea of work is chasing virgin queens.

Think Bruce Wayne, but no Batman. There you have it. Drones.

So what’s the big deal? So what if the hive’s Bohemian, populated with lotus eaters? If there are  only drones and no workers, there’s no comb. Without comb, there’s no honey. Without honey, the bees starve come winter. In fact, come late autumn the worker bees force the drones from the hive. They have to. Driving them out could well mean the difference between starving to death and surviving until spring.

It’s been suggested by scientists who study bees that a bee hive operates very much like a human brain. I mean, there’s no higher cognitive function, but otherwise, scientists have posited that their operations are very similar. If that’s the case, then our hive brain is more like Forrest Gump’s than Stephen Hawking’s. Which is not to say that it can’t improve. There is still hope, albeit one akin to the Flowers for Algernon variety. Realistically? Odds are, based on what we saw yesterday, that the hive will fail, the brain will die and we’ll have to start fresh next spring. That’s not what we wanted to hear, but there’s still good news.

And here it is.

The catalpa hive

Down the road from us, near the intersection of Roads 7-L and O, there’s a line of catalpa trees. In one of those trees is a hive of feral bees. This is a very cool thing, particularly when you understand that the hive has survived and thrived for roughly four years. With the population of bees dwindling as a consequence of a host of issues, to find a succesful wild hive is seriously cool. Why? Bees are our primary pollinators. Without them, plants that reproduce through pollination, and that’s the vast majority of our fruits and vegetables, simply don’t reproduce. No reproduction = No food.

So cheer on the bees, both wild and domestic. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.

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