bees from above

My child, eat honey, for it is good,
   and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste. (Prov. 24:13 NLT)

We do have a couple hives of bees at our greenhouses for honey production. More on that later. But something happened at home that I thought some readers might find interesting.

Sometimes in life, you get a free-bee.

European honey bees (Apis mellifera) quickly became naturalized on the American continent after European contact. My understanding is that many indigenous communities found (and exploited) these strange new insects before they even knew of the existence of the white man. They were known as the “white man’s flies.”

Most native bee species have a few individuals hibernate underground, while the majority of the colony dying off as the chill advances. Honey bees overwinter as a whole tribe by consuming their stockpiled honey and vibrating their wings for warmth. If they survive and enjoy a good spring with ample nectar flow on the landscape, they can split in two hives (or sometimes one just decides to move).

Like many hive-hosts, we’ve had mixed success getting ours to overwinter. Our last colony died and our supers (boxes) just sat empty. But I saw some activity at the entrance the other day. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I presumed it was just more pirates from another colony looking for a free honey snack stock-piled from the previous set.

But my friend Michael from Vintage Honey Bee confirmed that a new hive had indeed moved in. He found several indicators: dead bees and old frass (poop) were found ejected at the entrance, lots of drones (stingerless males apparently good for nothing except sperm), female workers arriving back at the nest laden with full pollen sacs, and guard bees patrolling the entrance.

I’d like to think that the flower-buffet we’ve laid out in the yard made the spot more attractive and put these boxes on their new home short-list. Either way, it’s just a free gift of abundance from the sky, swarming with excess.

kids at Moontree Studios

While I do plenty of traditional land stewardship activities on our property – like prescribed fire, habitat restoration, and invasive species control – I try to also make connections with the broader community. Sometimes that means taking the show on the road, and sometimes it means hosting.

Last month, we had the privilege of hosting a group of kids from the Plymouth Parks Department summer camp program. We set them lose on the flower-filled grounds of Moontree Studios.

who doesn’t love Moontree?

I love working with kids (as long as chaperones are present!). The wonder and joy of exploring creation is still right at the surface and doesn’t take much (if any) coaxing.

Look closely…

Our first activity was giving them a blank sheet of paper on a clipboard and asking them to pretend they were pollinators in search of flowers. Did we have enough flowers on the landscape? Were their different shapes and colors? Pretend you’re a bee… now buzz off!

With such an open command, each child’s individuality came through. Some drew flowers in a single color, focusing on form. Others wanted more true-to-life shades. Some counted the flower species up exactly. Others just got distracted by a cool bug.

Next, we gave them a strip of duct tape that we put around their wrist as a bracelet, sticky side out. Find a flower petal or two, and make a pretty bracelet. They didn’t take much prodding.

As I was drifting from group to group, I would briefly engage with kids and look at the plants with them. I spotted a spittle bug (watch this great video!), and I showed them how this little creature makes a bubble-bath home to protect himself from predators.

The best part came 10 minutes later, when one boy found a spittle bug all on his own.

This and many other wonders were known to so many kids of the Boomer generation, who grew up in close contact with wild spaces. Many of these spaces are gone, along with the footpaths, kids bicycles, and play forts.

At its most basic, it doesn’t take a lot of complicated planning to connect kids to nature, it just takes our commitment and prioritization. With as much as we know about child development and natural communities, we should see their right to explore and connect on par with the need for education, nutrition, and healthcare.