Our honey flow has started here in the mountains of western North Carolina … about a month early. Blackberry bushes, tulip poplar trees and black locust are throwing out blooms like there is no tomorrow, offering up the best of their best in this wildly vibrant spring. An old timey bee guy I know who has lived here all his life, told me he has never ever seen a spring like this. My bee yard looks and sounds like rush hour in L.A. Bees are coming and going from the hives in an explosion of winged traffic; Sam Comfort calls this flying with purpose. It is astonishing to sit and watch. I have been in the yard, on and off, throughout these past weeks, reveling in the divine revelation of it all.
New queens were born in Fern, Muriel, Sacre Coeur, Rinpoche and Guadalupe nucs (short for nucleus or small starter colonies). These precious souls join Crow, Ganesha, Hanson, Madonna, Never Forgets, and Milagro hives. What a family, eh? And, wonder of wonders, I saw the virgin queen from one hive step out and take her mating flight. Virgin queens have no hips, but all being well they soon become voluptuous (and I’ll confirm that soon when I go in and check for eggs).
I’m in a bee delirium. I go to the apiary each morning and I can hear it even before I enter it; the bees have gone utterly Dionysian with their precious spring-imbibing selves. It is so full of life here! I put my ear to the hives and the Milagro and Ganesha colonies roar like honeybee-powered engines. The bees are bursting out of their britches. And some plants and trees that normally bloom in succession, are blooming at the same time (which really is odd as socks). I can’t think why a single human being in western North Carolina could be anything but happy right now. All our sap is rising …
There are four Pieris (Lily of the Valley) bushes outside my home office; one is by my window at eye level. We have 4,500 pollinators in our area and I swear that most of them were on that bush this spring; it is a pollinator orgy over here and every winged one of them is in a good mood. It was like the Star Wars bar scene every day … and the most interesting sighting was a very odd-couple pairing of a large bee with a much smaller “hitchhiker” bee on its back. I apologize for the picture quality (it’s blurry), but it was the best I could do in that moment.
For days, I saw this duo on those bushes. The smaller bee looks like a honeybee, but with my glasses on (!) I realized it was too small for a honeybee. I posted this on my Facebook page and other circles and it sparked conversation and interest from here to Australia. I have been in touch with various entomologists from around the U.S. and the consensus is that the pair is either southeast blueberry bees or carpenter bees, but no one is absolutely sure because while some solitary bees (which these are) have smaller mates that can do that on-the-back thing, everyone needs to see a clearer photo to be sure of who’s who. I tried to get a better picture for days but “dating season” was over, even when I looked around on other blooming plants. This is a next-year thing. The rhythm and calendar of my life is now marked by bee-ish events and that fills my heart with gladness.
What else? At this time of year, I am constantly (and happily) answering bee-ish questions by phone and email. I field other calls like an air traffic controller, connecting people spotting swarms with friends who want to catch them. I visit some yards and do post-mortem sleuthing. I’m volunteering for a research project for The Center for Honeybee Research that has two yards of hives at the WNC Nature Center (some overlooking the red wolves and the others, the bears). And I continue to do remote teaching for the College of the Melissae: Center for Sacred Beekeeping that is growing at the pace of its own frenzied spring … they are a wonderful community to bee-hold.
This week marks the third and last occasion of helping some friends with 600 nucs that are delivered to a farm. A small bee-sotted team of us join Stuart, Jon and Carl (the nuc biz guys) to check each colony to be sure it is whole, hearty, queen-right, and all-ways-right before being picked up by the bee stewards who paid for them. We are knee deep in bajillions of bees … for hours of humming hours. The nucs are chemical-free, full to bursting, healthy new daughter colonies that take the pollen for great queen / genetic lineages. Doing the “bee math” and estimating about 10,000 bees per colony, I will have personally met around 1,200,000 more bees by the end of this adventure … I am a wealthy woman.
I am in such an altered state after this happy work each year that it feeds my soul like a fine time-released feast. I think, talk and dream about bees, smell like bees, am stained with propolis, have farmer girl’s nails, my favorite bee yard clothes are turning into comfy “blankies”, and I have constant hat hair. What more could a girl want?
So, my friends, Caveat Bee-ster (made-up Latin for bee-lover beware): This kind of great good fortune could happen to you. If I am incoherent the next time I see you … if I am just staring at you blissfully and wordlessly, just know that I have continued to have the most amazing bee spring ever and that somehow you’ll be able to receive darshan from the bees through me, one way or another. I remain at the feet of the Sri Sri bee-jis (all six of them). This surely is a path to enlightenment.
Til next time beeloveds … Carpe bee-um
Blessed be. Blessed bees.