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I sat watching the clouds swell and change shape in the sapphire afternoon sky. A boulder of thunder rumbled down from the ledges to the North and the rain began again. Spotty at first, the beat built to the ping of hail bouncing off the glass tabletop. I retreated to the table inside by the window. The toads ratcheted up their song to welcome the rain.

Earlier, Lauren and I had set off on our mares, tracing the familiar farm road up to the trails. The first drops were easy to ignore. As they intensified we ducked into the deeper woods and were shielded by the leaves overhead but drenched by the underbrush that has grown in all around.

I had the best weather of the day, all the sun and rain and hail and muggy warmth. It was a day of renewal for my bee keeping skills and I feel like I’ve graduated. My little hive not only survived the winter, today we did a “walk-away split” with the new queen they hatched out this spring. For my non-bee keeping audience, the hive is thriving and would have swarmed to find a new home for the burgeoning colony, had we not intervened. The old queen may actually have already swarmed and this new queen is what the remaining workers produced. I feel such a sense of accomplishment, it was June 10 of last year that I brought the original hive home…

With the help of my mentors, Jodi and Dean from Imagine That Honey! we took the entire hive apart, found the lovely new monarch and relocated her with some of her royal subjects and enough stores of honey, brood in various stages, and new frames to build a new colony. We moved them three miles down the road to an ancient apple orchard that Wilson expertly pruned this Spring. It is loaded with blossoms, clover and lilacs. They will be fine for a while and will forget about the old hive.

Meanwhile, the enormous colony still at my house is queen-less but the flow of nectar and pollen has started, they have plenty of drawn-out frames to build on, and fresh brood to create a new queen. The advantage to this method is two-fold. I protect and continue the healthy bloodlines in the hive by not introducing a new queen. I also break up the brood cycle, while there is no queen, which helps control varoa mites. The hive will be set back slightly but this early in the season it should easily rebound.

They are so driven and industrious. I feel like a lazy slob next to a hive of bees. So this afternoon, when I was working myself into a frenzy about what I should have been accomplishing in the garden, or cleaning the yard, or grabbing the kayaks – I stopped and looked up at the sky. Why does it feel selfish and unproductive to just sit and watch the clouds. As a kid, I would spend hours laying in hay fields, day-dreaming and observing the movement of the sun, the clouds and the trees in the breeze. It didn’t feel selfish or unproductive, it just felt good.

Tonight, I felt badly about removing their queen, their leader whose pheromones dictate the very fabric of their lives. I walked out to the hive and listened. A low hum told me they are still there. I imagine a meeting of the council as they come to the decision they must create a new queen, a new leader for this healthy little universe.


The queen and her court settled in the apple orchard


10 comments on “The Bees of Summer

  1. nhbees says:

    For me, I have yet to find anything more calming than the murmur of a contented hive. It is like your cloud watching. I feel guilty for doing it for too long as there is so much to do getting the orchard planted but I always walk away feeling calmer and refreshed. I, too, split a hive this weekend to make sure I keep my surviving Sullivan queen. It upsets the host hive for a bit but then they settle down to dealing with their new reality and doing what is necessary for the colony to continue. Very Taoist!


    1. Thank you! So glad your surviving hive is strong. I felt so badly for the ladies and wondered if they were mourning the loss of their queen. They seem to be moving ahead with life today.


  2. Touring NH says:

    I’ll bet, as in all civilized societies, they will set their new queen and continue on. Glad to hear they are doing so well. Everyone needs to sit and listen to nature now and then! Don’t feel guilty about it, feel badly for those that never do it!!


    1. Thank you Laura. I need to drop the feeling that “doing something productive” involves sweat and remember we are only here for a brief time and it is to be enjoyed!


  3. Kids are the ones who really know what life is about and we could all learn a little something by watching them.


  4. mariekeates says:

    Your bee keeping exploits are so interesting. I hope the new queen comes soon and their life return to normal. Cloud watching is one of my favourite pastimes, I don’t do enough of it.


    1. Thanks Marie. I learn so much from watching the bees. Best hobby I ever started. I recommend it highly to everyone. They are very calm and zen-like.


      1. mariekeates says:

        I wish I had a bigger garden every time I read about your bees. I may get a mason bee house because it’s about all I could fit in.


      2. I had never heard of a mason bee house. Just googled it and they are really fun looking. It also said mason bees don’t sting, a positive there! Mine have never stung me but I try to be calm and respectful. Their buzzing gets louder and more pronounced when they have had enough of me messing around in their little world. I always heed the warning and close them up as quickly as possible.
        Off to read more about mason bees, said to be great pollinators.


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