The colony

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ~Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine”

Several weeks ago, on the ever-persnickety website Nextdoor, someone freaked out because they had some bees in their backyard.

It’s still beyond me that every question today has to be crowd-sourced, that we don’t trust ourselves enough to do the research on our own. However, the thread turned out to be useful, because shortly after it was posted, a colony of honey bees  moved inside my Catalpa tree, finding a crack in a hollow.

My gardener (David) told me they were there, and that he would be careful with the blower around them because he “fuckin’ doesn’t want to get stung.” As he shared a few other stories of “almost got fuckin’ stung,” a ground squirrel popped his head out of my lawn and David focused his homicidal tendencies toward it, reminiscing about the creative ways he’s killed them. I reminded him that I pay him extra each month to not kill the ground squirrels.

Anyway, back to the bees.

Ever since my friend Tina started beekeeping several years ago I’ve stopped being afraid of honey bees. The few times I sat in her backyard filled with fruit trees, chickens, and bee boxes, I loved the serene way they floated in and out, making their honeycomb. The bees in my tree are no different. In fact, I got very close to the opening and watched them  go in and out for several minutes.

Honey bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers as food for the entire colony, and as they do, they pollinate plants. Nectar stored within their stomachs is passed from one worker to the next until the water within it diminishes. At this point, the nectar becomes honey, which workers store in the cells of the honeycomb.

The one thing that surprised me, though, is that bees don’t live very long, just a few months. And bees that are dying are taken out of the hive by other workers and dropped several feet away.  I’ve watched them clammer back over the dead lawn, only to die on their return, or be eaten by a wasp. One afternoon I watched a wasp eat the body off a honey bee, leaving the head. I have to say I was a bit mortified.


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