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The Cincinnati Zoo “Pollinator Garden Challenge”

Friends, I’ve just been outside planning a spot for another apiary, and THE WEATHER IS DOWNRIGHT SPRINGLIKE OUT THERE! Packaged bees arrive in Cincinnati on Easter Sunday morning, April 21, 2019….if you need a package, contact me.

But planning the site and ordering the packaged bees are only the first steps…once the bees arrive, they have to eat. And build honeycomb. And raise brood. And that takes nectar. Which comes from blooming plants. And that’s where the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens comes into play right now.

The CZBG has begun a Pollinator Garden Challenge, and I implore you to register your garden on their website. I registered mine a few weeks ago, and then I received their very nice little garden sign in the mail. The sign indicates to my neighbors, any visitors to my yard, or all the Sunday-afternoon drive takers who cruise down my street that the glorious flowers they’re seeing are recognized by the Zoo as a pollinator garden.

If you don’t already have pollinator-supporting flowers or bushes or trees planted in your yard, you can start right now, right here.  Then register your garden and let the Zoo know you’ve become a part of Cincinnati’s garden solution.

 

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Failing Forward

Failing Forward (and My Quoddy Ringboots)

My friend Sarah Brown interviewed me for her “Failing Forward” podcast which resulted in this mini episode about beekeeping…the “failing” parts aren’t explicit here, but believe me, failure undergirds it all.

Very listenable at 6ish-minutes long.

Also, in this image you can see my favorite Quoddy Ringboots (they don’t touch the floor because at 5’3″, I’m shorter than I sound). They are the most comfortable shoes you can imagine. Ever. In the world.

Failing Forward

Out of work women

Of Course They’re Pissy

Out of work women

And who wouldn’t be pissy, friends?

Several of my fellow beekeepers have recently complained that their otherwise sweet-tempered honeybees have become “aggressive” this past week or so.

At the end of June, most of Ohio’s yards and fields and farms enter a period of dearth when it comes to nectar flow. From March to late June, even our turf-dense suburban yards are alive with blooms in trees and bushes and little flowering things. But eventually these blossoms disappear to make way for leaves, and once that transformation occurs, because we’ve not made room in our lives for wildflowers, pollinators suddenly face a lack of food.

I mean, this is a ridiculous burden to place on any species…they have bounty for only three months, and suddenly NOTHING. NOTHING FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE YEAR.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—you’re thinking that you have all those nice knock-out roses and those daylilies and those hostas in your flower beds, right? You think that you’ve purchased those pretty impatiens and petunias and planted them in your window boxes and that that should help the bees. But it doesn’t.

Bees need wildflowers, my friends. But I’ll save this issue for another post.

I’ve come to think that nectar is to bees as money is to humans. Worker bees head off every day to earn their pay. They feed their colony what they collect. Furthermore, when the nectar flow is on (when flowers are blooming), bees convert that nectar to wax and build their infrastructure comb with it, and they then store any surplus for use in the winter.

But when the nectar flow ends and bees enter a long period of dearth, there’s nothing to show for their foraging work. They head off to work but they can find none. They can no longer convert nectar to wax because there’s no nectar. They can no longer store their surplus…instead, they’re forced to eat into their savings which then risks their winter survival.

Wouldn’t you be cranky?!

You know, the more I think about it, the more I understand why so many humans are currently angry and violent and aggressive and short tempered, too. Many people are living in their own kind of dearth…a dearth in which there’s not enough work, which means there’s not enough money, which means there’s not enough food, and certainly, then, not enough (if any) savings.  We all need work to do, and that work should be enough to provide our families with food and housing without risking our futures.

If we all planted more wildflowers, the bees would not enter such an early dearth and could provide better for themselves. And we can do better by our fellow humans, too. We can do this, friends. We can do this.

I'm Sorry, Honey Bee

The Most-Spoken Word in a Bee Yard

I'm Sorry, Honey Bee

There’s something wonderfully interesting about people who have heard the voice of intuition (or the voice of the universe or God…you know, the voice of something larger than we are) and who have then acted upon that calling by becoming beekeepers.

Beekeeping isn’t a hobby that we simply pick up. I’ve come to think of it as a calling…a calling that requires a commitment we might not initially have anticipated but a commitment that we don’t shy from, and I love that quality in people. But that’s not the point of this post.

Here’s my point: I visit many colonies with numerous beekeepers, and long ago I realized that the most often-spoken word in the bee yard is “Sorry.”  After all these years and all these bees, I still find myself saying “I’m sorry” all the time. I say it without speaking, and I say it aloud.  Everyone I work with says it. A lot. And we don’t wait to express ourselves…we say it right away as we make our many mistakes.

We screw up. We hurt others. We squish bees or unsettle them or drop things or fumble. We’re sorry for that. And expressing that apology for being imperfect, clumsy human beings is a high quality to me…it requires humility, and I will follow humble-yet-confident people to the ends of this earth. It is my favorite quality combination. Pompousness can go jump in a lake.

As beekeepers work to become more confident stewards of our colonies, we’ll make our mistakes. To hear “I’m sorry” mumbled as the bees teach us to become better beekeepers and better people, though, is a sweet experience.

Cincinnati swarm

Cincinnati Bee Swarm Removal

Cincinnati swarm

Call: 513-675-9897

Friends, we’ve entered the most exciting time of the year…it’s SWARM SEASON!  If you happen upon a sweet swarm of humming, morphing, happy bees hanging from a tree…or from a lamppost, a porch railing, an awning, or from some other curious support…don’t panic. A swarm is one of the universe’s great gifts to us.

Please call a beekeeper who will collect the swarm and re-hive it where it will live on to forage and pollinate and make us all happier.

My phone number: 513-675-9897. And if I can’t get there right away, I’ll call someone who can.

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Friends, expect to see more log hives this season. :)

Because it’s April, and because we have both snow and bees…a poem

Because it’s April, and because those of us in Cincinnati have experienced both snow and bees in the same breath this week, let’s break for a poem. And this is a good time to remind you of two things: 1) some poems are dark…because it snows in April; 2) expect to see more skeps and log hives this season. Neither of which are exactly legal hives in Ohio. Which is also dark.

*glowering all around*

Friends, expect to see more log hives this season. :)
Wildflowers and a wild fence

I was delighted when my friends at Ohio Prairie Nursery invited me to write a brief blog post for them. They published “The Year of Plenty” last week, and now you can click on over there to read it. :)

And if you want your own wildflowers, I highly recommend buying them through OPN.

Be wilder, friends. Plant flowers. Be a hippie.

 

Wildflowers and a wild fence

Liz Tilton, Melanie Evans, Carlier Smyth

It’s Fun to Be on WVXU

Liz Tilton, Melanie Evans, Carlier Smyth
Liz Tilton, Melanie Evans, Carlier Smyth in the studio at WVXU

 

Reader, on Monday, November 7th, two of my friends and I spoke about beekeeping on WVXU, Cincinnati’s NPR station. And I have to tell you that someone over at ‘VXU is really good at editing. :) I know a thing or two about editing, and it’s not easy to do smoothly, but someone over there is first rate at it. Because there was one instance when I stumbled around a bit and went on a bit too long, and it’s not in the tape. THANK YOU, editor.

(That’s me on the left in the blue shirt and the round glasses; Melanie Evans of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Pollen Nation is in the center; and Carlier Smyth of Queen City Bee Co is closest. I love those big headphones and fuzzy mics.)

 

 

 

Festooning is more fun than sulking

Don’t Sulk—Festoon!

Festooning bees rebuilding comb

Perhaps the quality I admire most in honeybee colonies is resiliency. I can’t tell you how often I make mistakes that set the colonies back: I mishandle individual honeycombs; I squish bees; I’ve accidentally dropped an entire eight-frame super filled with brood and honey and pollen…eight frames rich with bee economy and life was strewn on the ground around the hive while the air filled with displaced bees. I’ve mutilated queens that eventually died. I’ve been neglectful when the colony needed nectar or sugar water. I am sometimes a klutz, and the hive pays the price for my mistakes.

But here’s the miracle in it: the bees don’t fret. They don’t hold resentments. They don’t attack me in anger or act out in retribution. Actually, it seems to me that when I make my bad moves, the bees don’t even acknowledge my presence. I am invisible to them. Why? Probably because they sense that I don’t have a single thing to offer them when it comes to their recovery. They know I am powerless when it comes to helping them repair my ignorant or careless mistakes and that the rebuilding must come from their own efforts. They organize and set about IMMEDIATELY repairing. They waste zero time in looking back with regret; instead, they festoon—they link themselves together, Reader, and they channel their combined energies into what needs to be done to set things right again.

So, on this day following the 2016 US Presidential election, the results of which did not swing my way, I plan to link up and start the rebuilding, too.