Poetry Sunday: Play in Which Darkness Falls

Play in Which Darkness Falls

BY FRANK STANFORD

Raymond Roussel

Two girls runaway from the Home. They have a revolver
in their possession. The Sisters Of Our Lady have given up
looking for them, returning in the night with soft candles.
The sleek clouds have thrown their riders, and the bees
are returning to the honey, the clover at the edge of the
cliff black as eyelids, damp as blue mussels flexing at the moon.
The girls look in the stolen mirror, then throw their shoes
in the sea. They take off one another’s dress, posing
on the rocks that jut out over the faded water of the last days.
The clover beat down from their splendid feet, the clover
quiet like a vault. Nearby in a ship named for early death,
I drink wine like a city. Anchored far off the continent of love.
Strange, but bees do not die in their own honey, and how the dead
are toted off, how the sweet moons are deposited in the catacombs.
The clover at the edge of the sea like a chemise, place
where animals have lain. They help one another with their hair,
their dresses blowing back to land. They look over the
cliff, spit on the beach. Birds I have never seen going by.

Poetry Sunday: Trust

Trust

BY SUSAN KINSOLVING

Trust that there is a tiger, muscular
Tasmanian, and sly, which has never been
seen and never will be seen by any human
eye. Trust that thirty thousand sword-
fish will never near a ship, that far
from cameras or cars elephant herds live
long elephant lives. Believe that bees
by the billions find unidentified flowers
on unmapped marshes and mountains. Safe
in caves of contentment, bears sleep.
Through vast canyons, horses run while slowly
snakes stretch beyond their skins in the sun.
I must trust all this to be true, though
the few birds at my feeder watch the window
with small flutters of fear, so like my own.

Poetry Sunday: Carrefour

Carrefour

BY AMY LOWELL

O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.

Rebecca Chesney: dead bee. again and again, 2008

A Nuc Hive of Dead Bees :(

Rebecca Chesney: dead bee. again and again, 2008

I revved up the table saw and made three inner covers for my nuc hives, and I cut a round opening in each through which I can feed the bees their syrup.

But when I opened the hives to give the bees their snug, new, inner covers, I discovered one of the hives dead. A dead hive is soooo quiet. Creepy. And disheartening.

Wow. The dead hive really surprised me…this is not the time of year for a colony to completely die off. And the other nucs, all of which have the same arrangement, were doing fine. So, I presented all the living hives with their fancy new inner cover and a new jar of syrup, and they’re all still flying.

After sort of reviewing the situation to figure out what happened, I scraped the pile of dead bees into the grass. I’m leaving the comb from that hive in its box and out in the sun so wax moths don’t destroy it before winter hits us.

What happened to the Nicola hive? I’m not sure, but the comb and all the dead bees were wet. Either condensation (warm days + cold nights = condensation build up) had collected on the top cover and dripped onto the bees, or (and this is my suspicion) I didn’t let a proper vacuum seal the inverted jar of syrup I placed atop the hive, and it dripped onto the bees. And they died.

Either way, I guess I killed them. Dang.

I’ve learned to cut myself a lot of slack when it comes to making mistakes that cost either bees or honey. It’s disappointing, but I try to consider these lessons learned. And I’ve found that it’s good for me to immediately get over the situation…analyze the hive, say some sort of thank you to the bees, and scrape them out onto the ground. Then I clean up the equipment for the next colony.

 

 

Poetry Sunday: Equinox

Equinox

BY ELIZABETH ALEXANDER

Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants
in the bright, late-September out-of-doors.
I have found their dried husks in my clothes.
They are dervishes because they are dying,
one last sting, a warm place to squeeze
a drop of venom or of honey.
After the stroke we thought would be her last
my grandmother came back, reared back and slapped
a nurse across the face. Then she stood up,
walked outside, and lay down in the snow.
Two years later there is no other way
to say, we are waiting. She is silent, light
as an empty hive, and she is breathing.

Poetry Sunday: Intimate Detail

Intimate Detail

BY Heid E. Erdrich

Late summer, late afternoon, my work
interrupted by bees who claim my tea,
even my pen looks flower-good to them.
I warn a delivery man that my bees,
who all summer have been tame as cows,
now grow frantic, aggressive, difficult to shoo
from the house. I blame the second blooms
come out in hot colors, defiant vibrancy—
unexpected from cottage cosmos, nicotianna,
and bean vine. But those bees know, I’m told
by the interested delivery man, they have only
so many days to go. He sighs at sweetness untasted.

Still warm in the day, we inspect the bees.
This kind stranger knows them in intimate detail.
He can name the ones I think of as shopping ladies.
Their fur coats ruffed up, yellow packages tucked
beneath their wings, so weighted with their finds
they ascend in slow circles, sometimes drop, while
other bees whirl madly, dance the blossoms, ravish
broadly so the whole bed bends and bounces alive.

He asks if I have kids, I say not yet. He has five,
all boys. He calls the honeybees his girls although
he tells me they’re ungendered workers
who never produce offspring. Some hour drops,
the bees shut off. In the long, cool slant of sun,
spent flowers fold into cups. He asks me if I’ve ever
seen a Solitary Bee where it sleeps. I say I’ve not.
The nearest bud’s a long-throated peach hollyhock.
He cradles it in his palm, holds it up so I spy
the intimacy of the sleeping bee. Little life safe in a petal,
little girl, your few furious buzzings as you stir
stay with me all winter, remind me of my work undone.

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.

 

 

 

Smoke Bomb

Cardboard "Smoker Bombs"

I know, I know. I’d planned to visit with you about the “colony vs. hive” nomenclature challenge when it comes to writing about the bees.

But I’d rather tell you about smoke bombs instead.

Smoke Bomb

Keeping bees is challenging…which is probably why I’m so hooked. One constant challenge is keeping the dang smoker lit. Funny, this summer at the Zia Queenbee workshop, ten rather-experienced beekeepers all hauled our smokers and our veils to New Mexico to learn how to rear queen bees. It shocked me that each of us wrestled with our smokers. Of the ten smokers present, only one or two kept a good smoke going the one or two hours of our work in the hives.

Simon, my friend and one of my bee stewards, has convinced me that cardboard makes great smoker fuel. Then, I saw a video of a guy who uses rolled-up corrogated cardboard in his smoker…loading one of these bombs into the smoker feels good. It also provides for a slow, cool burn.

So, I began to roll what I call “smoke bombs” from cardboard boxes. I roll the cardboard tightly, making sure the corrugation runs up and down in the smoker so air can flow from the bottom to the top and out the smoker spout. I tie them off with string, or I wrap them with masking tape so they hold their shape, and I keep a collection of them in a bag with my bee stuff (some of them find their way under the seat of my car or other surprising places). So far, I can report that they burn better than anything else I’ve found. They’re lightweight, they keep forever, they’re completely portable, and it’s a good way to recycle.

UPDATE: If you wait until your bomb is smoking a bit, then pack some burlap around it, you’ll get a TERRIFIC smoke that lasts a very long time. Bingo.

P.S. I now use a propane torch I bought at Home Depot to light my bomb. These days, my smoke starts fast, lasts a long time, and doesn’t poop out.

 

 

 

Grammatically Challenging Little Suckers

I think I’ve probably inspected the bees for the final time this season. Now we give the colony time to set its hive in order for winter. Which means it’s time for the colony to propolize the gaps between the boxes and to move honey to wherever it’s wanted and to cap the honey for safekeeping until needed.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Let me interrupt this lesson on “propolis”—which was where this post was headed and which you can look up on your own if you’re so interested in learning more about it right this second—because I need to share with you something that’s giving me fits.

For me, writing about bees is made difficult because of three things:

  1. Bees, of course, are singular creatures. However, the single bee is usually not the focus of my conversations nor of my attention. The bees (plural) are the focus of our efforts here. But the (plural) bees operate as a (single) unit called “the colony” or “the hive.” So, while the “bee” is grammatically singular—as is the hive or the colony—“bees” are plural. I am constantly going back to change sentences or pronouns from plural to singular and vice versa. I stop myself almost every sentence to ask, “Am I talking here about the bees (plural) or about the colony (singular)?” It drives me nuts.  But it’s this increasing awareness—that the colony is composed of thousands of individual bees operating as a single organism—which intrigues me beyond measure.
  2. Now I can’t remember the second thing that gives me fits. I’ll let you know when it rears its ugly head again, though.
  3. Which word to use—“hive” or “colony.” (But because this post has already gone on long enough, I’ll save this nomenclature challenge for next time.)
P.S. I know, Reader, that you may now wish to scrutinize my grammar and punctuation. Go for it. I’ll let you know right this second that I don’t necessarily follow the rules. Which is why I had to resign from my last job. And which is why you may notice sparse use of commas.