Since I don’t own a television, I usually have the NY Times set as the home page on my computer, which allows me to at least glance at the headlines and know if the sky is about to fall or anything like that. This morning, while scrolling around the page, “Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril” headline caught my eye. It’s in the Business section, something I normally wouldn’t read, but I didn’t realize that until I read the article. You can follow the link to read it yourself.
Excuse me, but if the honeybees really do vanish, there’s going to be more in peril than the beekeepers!
photo from Wikipedia
When I was a kid, always interested in natural history, I read the most fascinating article in National Geographic, I think (but I’m not certain), about honeybees. The author told the life history of the honeybees and there were lots of nice pictures. The part that stuck with me though, was the author’s personal experience of a honeybee in his house, that finally collapsed and appeared to die on the windowsill after flying for hours against a closed window. The author then opened the window a few inches and observed. Within a short time, another bee found its fallen commrade, and the author watched as the rescue bee fed the downed bee – presumably honey. In a short time, the fallen bee revived and flew off with its rescuer. That story made a huge impression on me and has stayed with me to this day.
I think the other reason I loved the story was because of our own personal wild honeybee hive – we shared our home with honeybees. Well, just a corner of the roof – but we had our moments.
In this post, I talked about our old house.
If you look at the photo, you’ll see where the roof attaches to the house in the upper corner. The corner I’m talking about is on the opposite side of the nearest corner in the photo, and just over the back door.
At some point in the house’s history (1870s) a honeybee queen and her drones moved into the attic wall, apparently through some small hole – perhaps a nail hole – under the roof at that corner.
The walls in this old house were something called ‘plaster and lathe’ – they were about a foot thick, and hollow in the middle. I remember seeing them when minor repairs or remodeling were done. We found a high-buttoned shoe in one. Once in a while, a squirrel would get inside the wall, and we could hear a hickory or walnut go rolling down the inside of the wall, with the squirrel in hot pursuit. So who minded a few thousand honeybees?
Oh, during the earlier years, my father had beekeepers come out and attempt to collect the swarm, fearing they would damage the house. After many unsuccessful attempts – he decided to just leave them alone. They never bothered us, we didn’t bother them, and we all co-existed for 35 years without any problems. I’m not sure if they are still there.
They were fun to have around, actually, and we always had good crops and gorgeous flowers. It was sort of fun to watch the reaction of visitors when, as they approached the house, they could hear bees but weren’t sure where they were. There were always several dozen swarming around the corner of the house as they came and went. Sometimes there would be a die-off of older bees, and we’d find dozens of dead bees on the ground.
I used to go up to the attic, put my ear to the wall in that corner, and listen to bees. I wish I could do that still.
It saddens me that truly wild bees are rare. I can’t help but suspect that bees must glean something they need from living wild and undisturbed in natural places – be it old trees or old houses. By ‘managing’ them in artificial hives, have we taken something from them that is essential to their survival? By robbing them of the honey, have we damaged them in some way?
To me, the article in the NYTimes illustrates the dollar sign we attach to everything. But much more important is the underlying picture of what is happening to our Earth, and our indifference to what we are doing. It boggles my mind to see what we have done and continue to do – and then people act surprised when something is out of balance, or a species is disappearing, or there’s a new disease – like this shouldn’t be happening and ohmygosh, what’s going on? It’s a scary thing.
Colony Collapse Disorder? Sounds more like Idiot Human Disorder to me.