The Beauty of Pollination

If You Plant It and It Blooms, They Will Come

My Aunt Chris sent this video my way. She has one of the liveliest backyards ever…full of blooms and wonder. I’ve always loved thinking of her out puttering in her greenhouse and her gardens. It’s a trait shared by my mother, her sister—a trait inherited directly from their father. And although I consider myself late to the party, I can say that this dormant green-thumb obsession has now blossomed in me, too.

In the video, please note that the common denominator in all this wonder is flowers. If you plant it and it blooms, they will come.

Cupid the Honey Thief

There Is No Sweetness Without Pain: Happy Valentine’s Day

Albrect Durer's 1514 "Cupid the Honey Thief:" Pen, ink, and watercolor on paper

I love that, no matter what, Cupid WILL NOT let go of the honey here. :) And that’s Cupid’s unflappable mother, Venus, with him. As you can see, the calmer the person, the calmer the bees. It’s a good reminder not to run flailing around when things get tense in the bee yard. Be like Venus, friends. Though I have to say that I can certainly relate to Cupid. Something similar once happened to me. Years ago, I failed to use my smoker when I opened a hive…I thought I could quickly slip in there without notice. And in the midst of some angry bees on my unveiled face, I swatted my eyeglasses into the bushes near the beehives. I still haven’t found them.

I’ll also admit that after I slung my glasses into the woods, I ripped off my shirt and swatted it wildly around my head as I attempted to outrun the bees. It was an ugly event.

I do, however, love the reminder that if bees didn’t sting, it would be like keeping a box full of flies…and what on earth fun is that?!

Dear Reader, no doubt you know by now—now that you are where you are in your life—that there is no sweetness without pain. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Bee in Catherine Stehlin's window copy

A Bee in Catherine Comello Stehlin’s Window

 

 

 

Catherine Comello Stehlin has died. Some people are simply forces of nature, and when they leave us, they leave gaping holes. That’s the way I feel about Catherine, and I didn’t even know her that well. I wish I had. I loved her from the moment I first spoke with her on the phone, and I grew to love her more through several conversations and by watching her spirit-filled life on Facebook. I won’t go on and on, but I am not usually this crazy about people.

They say that when someone important to us dies, we should tell the bees. Which I have done. They need to know about the shifts in our world.

Anyway, several years ago, photojournalist Emily Maxwell spent some time with a few local beekeepers documenting the plight of the bees and urban beekeepers. Emily recorded Catherine’s voice, and I like hearing it. To hear it for yourself, click on this link and then watch the slideshow titled “The Rise of CCD and Urban Beekeeping in Cincinnati.” There, at about the half-way point, you’ll find images of Catherine and her fire-escape bees. And you can hear her voice as she talks about them.

 

(photo by Emily Maxwell)

 

 

 

 

bees on honeycomb

Take it Down a Notch

Okay, friends. I’m just gonna post this little WKRC video about the bees at the zoo farm right here. But I cringe when I see it. Because I must have been hyped up on adrenaline when the news people came around. I hate to think I really talk this fast and that I sometimes sound so know-it-ally. I don’t know what it is about the presence of a video camera that makes us act differently. And I don’t know what it is that makes me feel as if I need to have all the right answers when journalists ask their wonderful questions. I prefer humility. I don’t mind self confidence, but I dislike sounding as if I am certain of every single thing.

I’ve decided to speak more slowly. And to take that extra moment to think before I speak. And to smile as I think. All of which should make me a more pleasant person to hang with, don’t you think? Sometimes I miss that slight drawl in the conversations of my native Texans. Because there’s a certain casualness to it. A drawl makes you feel as if not everything is an emergency. And it’s usually drawled out with a slight smile as if to say, everything will be all right.

It Isn’t the Polar Vortex that Kills the Bees

Reader, yesterday I received a call from a reporter at WCPO’s Channel 9, Cincinnati’s local news station. Cierra Johnson asked if she could visit with me about the terrible effect the winter-of-the-polar-vortices had on the local bee population.

I was on my way to check on some bees when she called, so I invited Cierra to join me, and she did. We had a very nice time among the bees, and Cierra put together quite a nice story…which ended up being more about the effects the lack of good foraging has on the bee population. Which was a terrific adjustment on Cierra’s part, because she got it. She understood that the lack of a rich food supply is much more devastating for the bees than the cold. If they have enough food, Reader, the frigid temperatures shouldn’t be an issue.

I liked that when the piece came together on TV, the Channel 9 anchors kept calling me “Tilton.”

 

WCPO visits the Brazee bees
WCPO visits the Brazee bees

 

Bee Love 2013

The 2013 Bee Love Tee

Bee Love 2013
Bee Love T-shirt 2013

Introducing the Bee Love 2013 T-shirt. Designed by Jody Fritz Pieper. If you want one, contact me and I’ll get it to you. I wear it almost every day. Because it’s wonderful and feels good.

A Space Is Prepared, and the Bees Fill It

We spent much of the weekend on our farm in Waco, Kentucky. Now that Deb owns the farm outright, we feel we can begin making a few slight changes in the way things work down there. For instance, I think we’re gonna ask all the relatives to come and get whatever they want from the old farmhouse and the shed and the barn; whatever’s left that we don’t want will go up in flames in a bonfire the likes of which Madison County hasn’t seen in a long long time. Keep your eyes on the sky the day following Labor Day.

Why clear all that stuff from the house, the shed, the barn? Sometimes you just need to make some room. Creativity requires room. How can new things come to you, Reader, if there’s no space in which to hold it?

So, Brent (the guy who leases the farm to run some cattle) has recently changed his life. He’s made room in it for new things, and he’s ready to keep bees. We’re thinking of starting about 10 hives down there next spring. The farm is a 2-hour drive from here, and because we get down there only about once a month, it’s important to have someone keeping an eye on the bees…and Brent seems perfectly delighted at that prospect. He’s decided on a spot against a fence for the hives. He’s planning to seed a field in clover. For whatever reason, a reason I have no need to understand, Brent needs bees. Just as I did.

You know, Reader, I find it quite fascinating that some people—people such as Brent and me (and perhaps even you)—become ready. I don’t know how to describe it, but I can spot it right away. A light appears in the eye. A space is held open in the body for it. Other people make polite conversation, but those who are ready cannot be satisfied with small talk. Might as well go ahead and buy those people a smoker of their own.

 

Johnny and the big smoker

And Who Wouldn't Want to See the Bees?!

On April 27, 2009, I captured the swarm that I now call the Amazons, and it’s mid April again right now….which means I think it’s time to set out the four swarm bait boxes I’ve built in hopes of capturing a few swarms.

I’m not entirely sure where to hang those things. I know I’ll put one on a tree in my own beeyard—near the Amazons because they swarmed a few times last year and landed right there in front of my eyes…right in front of my eyes, but 40 or 50 feet up in the tree…too high for me to reach. It’s a killer to watch your own bees hanging in your own yard like that knowing they’re off to find a new home.

You know, Reader, on Sunday afternoon as I set out to inspect the Amazons with Hannah, a soon-to-be beekeeper, my neighbor John appeared. He saw us getting our gear together, and he wanted to see the bees. He was in shorts, T-shirt, and Chaco sandals. We suited him up. Then Katie, John’s wife called out to say that she was leaving the house and asked if John would watch Johnny, their 5-year old son. So, we suited Johnny up, too, and we all went out to visit the bees.

But in all the commotion, I lost sight of my plans for the inspection, and though we saw many wonderful goings on in the hive, I forgot to do what I set out to do: remove the bottom hive box (because nothing’s happening in there, and it’s one of two remaining 10-frame deep boxes still in operation and I’m eager to get rid of it); and add an 8-frame medium box to the top of the hive for expansion.

Today’s temperatures should reach the mid-60s, and it’s supposed to be sunny, so I plan to quickly do those two things this afternoon.

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Johnny and the big smoker
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John, Johnny, and Hannah inspect the Amazons