Poetry Sunday: The River of Bees

The River of Bees

BY W.S. MERWIN

In a dream I returned to the river of bees
Five orange trees by the bridge and
Beside two mills my house
Into whose courtyard a blindman followed
The goats and stood singing
Of what was older

Soon it will be fifteen years

He was old he will have fallen into his eyes

I took my eyes

A long way to the calendars

Room after room asking how shall I live

One of the ends is made of streets
One man processions carry through it
Empty bottles their
Image of hope
It was offered to me by name

Once once and once
In the same city I was born
Asking what shall I say

He will have fallen into his mouth
Men think they are better than grass

I return to his voice rising like a forkful of hay

He was old he is not real nothing is real
Nor the noise of death drawing water

We are the echo of the future

On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live

 

 

Honeybees as Housemates

I receive a lot of calls for bee removals at this time of year.

This is a lousy time of year to remove honeybees, and, believe me, it’s a tough challenge to encourage homeowners to live throughout the winter with their hive of bees as housemates.

Asking some people to live with their honeybees is sort of like asking them to live with their cancer for a little while longer (yes, I know this analogy falls short because cancer is serious business and honeybees are simply a nuisance, but go with me on this one).

Usually, the bees have been living undetected in the home for some time. So, it’s not as if this is something that needs to be addressed immediately. For some reason, however, simply KNOWING about the bees’ presence seems to instill a sense of urgency in their removal.

However, if we can keep our wits about us, we will make better decisions…decisions based on information and made with a cool head.

In just a few weeks, the honeybees in Ohio will cluster. They’ll be quiet. They’ll stop flying around the doorframe or the windowsill or from the attic where they’ve previously been so active. They will simply live out their winter in a quiet ball of sweet humming. Over the winter, the population of the hive will slowly decrease. And that great store of honey they’ve collected all summer will dwindle as the colony slowly consumes it.

If we were to remove the bees right now, the bees could not survive—removals are hard on the bees, and they need some nurturing from their beekeeper to recover from it…and this late in the season, they don’t have time to reestablish themselves before winter hits. So, even though we can rid the house of bees, we would lose the bees entirely. And my priority is to establish a viable hive from whatever bees I remove.

If I can convince the homeowner to wait until late March (or after) to part company with their bees, we would find three things beneficial to a successful removal:

  1. There are far fewer bees to remove because the hive population dwindles over the winter (this also translates into less expense for the homeowner).
  2. There is far less honey to deal with because the colony eats through the stored honey over the winter. Therefore, there’s far less mess to clean up from the space in which the colony overwintered (this also translates into less expense for the removal). It also means far less honey remains behind to draw ants, mice, and other pests which the homeowner surely wants to avoid.
  3. Most importantly, if we remove the bees and all their honeycomb in the spring, the hive stands every chance to recover and thrive and pollinate and produce local honey (a portion of which is usually gifted back to the homeowner). In the spring, we would expect a healthy, vibrant hive to carry on once it’s re-hived and re-established in a bee yard where it can forage and flourish. Doesn’t that make you happy, Reader?
I sort of like the thought of overwintering a hive of humming honeybees in the warm walls of my home—a dog, a cat, some mice, a few spiders, and a hive of honeybees. It all adds heart.

 

 

 

All the pretty weeds

Why Mow It?

Did I tell you, Reader, that Jerod keeps his bees at his grandparents’ place where there is quite a bit of open land and a couple of massive gardens? Earlier this week, Jerod took me for a stroll into the thick weeds of the open lot—once the bees arrived last spring, Jerod’s grandfather stopped all mowing in the back lots, and now it’s full of glorious weedy delights. And the bees are hog wild on the flowers. I don’t know why we mow our yards. I’m of a mind to let some of our lawn go.

All the pretty weeds

 

Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)

My First Swarm-Bait Box Is Now Hung in a Tree

You know, I wait all winter long…think all winter long…plan and build all winter long…and still I am late when it comes to execution. Well, maybe not late, but certainly not early.

I think it’s swarm season, and as of yesterday I still hadn’t hung my home-built swarm boxes in their trees.

So, yesterday I hung one box in a tree in my beeyard. I’m not sure it’s high enough, and I may have put a bit too much lemongrass oil in the little container, but it’s hung. And even though I painted it camouflage, Deb spotted it immediately when she got out of her car. “What’s hanging in that tree?” she said. Bummer.

Come on, my little swarmies.

 

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Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)
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Swarm bait box decked out with camouflage and duct tape!
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Swarm-bait box hung in the beeyard
Honeybee

Those Don't Look Like Bees

I put my name out on the internet as a honeybee-swarm collector, and I’ve been getting tons of calls to remove bees from structures…like log cabins, etc. Every day someone calls about bees.

I want to collect swarms, but I don’t do “cut outs.”

However, this morning I got a call from our friend, Don, who said his neighbor had found honeybees building comb in his birdhouse, and I was elated. I am dying to increase my colonies with local, feral bees. They’re healthier. And they’re free. And it’s cool to have them.

So tonight I loaded my car with all the equipment I thought I could possibly need to capture bees from the birdhouse. I mean, I had it all in there. I fired up my smoker and drove to the Korengel’s house with my smoker blowing smoke out the open windows and visions of strong and feral bees coming home with me and building comb and making me some honey. I was thinking of myself as a big bee expert.

But when I got to the birdhouse, I realized that those weren’t honeybees; they were yellow jackets. Shit. I toldĀ Don to tellĀ his neighbor to kill them.

Honeybee
Honeybee
Yellow Jacket
Yellow Jacket