Monday, April 16, 2007

Does A Bee Care?

Isaac Asimov poses that question as a title to an intriguing short story about alien plant-like beings using human space explorers to transmit pollen from one planet to another.

Today, honeybees came to Pinwheel Farm! Of course there have always been bees buzzing around the flowers here, but we've never had a known colony living here. Now there is a hive setting near the Torii, right by the main lane at the west end of the east Willow Row.

Beekeeping has always been a part of the grand scheme of things for the farm, but I'm no beekeeper. I know enough about beekeeping (counting a number of beekeepers among my acquaintances) to know that there is a lot to know about beekeeping, and that it has its own calendar that would have to be fitted into the calendars of the other enterprises at Pinwheel Farm: Sheep, vegetables, Farmer's Market, crafts, etc.

My hope was to find someone who would keep their bees here, that I could watch and learn from over time and eventually start my own hives. I talked to some area beekeepers, but no one was interested. Eventually I gave up and completely back-burnered the dream of having bees here....

Last week an acquaintance called to inquire whether he might move his beehive to my farm. He came out this afternoon to look at the space, and came back soon thereafter with the hive. I used the Austrian Scythe to mow the tall grass from the area, and he put down a sturdy pallet, then the hive on top. The door faces east, so they'll get the morning sun, and the willows will shade them from the afternoon sun. There's easy access by vehicle, when needed, but it's a quiet spot where people and bees won't disturb one another. They can drink from the sheep's water tank. A fence will keep the sheep from disturbing them. They can forage on the pasture, the wilderness areas beyond, in the garden, in the neighborhood where there are so many fruit trees and flowers.

He pulled the rag out of the door, and a few by a few the bees began to emerge. They began to fly tightly around the door of the hive, then venturing further and further away, circling. It was powerfully moving to watch them. I was overwhelmed with respect and love for these beautiful, talented, wise beings who had just come to live at my farm.

We can care for the bees: provide a house, feed them, shelter them from the elements, treat them for parasites and diseases. We can harvest the honey they make, the pollen they collect. We can work with them by understanding their ways and using those ways to acheive what we want. But we cannot control them. They are independent beings. They, and they alone, will decide where they will fly and forage.

All you bees, welcome to Pinwheel Farm! May your colony live here in peace for many years to come, and help to make this truly a land flowing with milk and honey! May we humbly respect you and provide wisely for your simple needs!

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