Monday, May 31, 2010
I write to you on a rainy Asheville day. I must admit I’ve come to love rainy days because it means I can catch my breath a tiny bit.
Springtime and early summer are intense times for bee keeping. Especially in the spring, a lot of attention is needed, a lot of visiting, a lot of observing and adjusting. Ideally, these visits happen in the warmest part of the day because at that time, the bees are very busy, flying out on foraging trips, working in the hives. An intrusion at that time of day is not as noticeable, since everybody in the hive is so busy. For me, finding time in the middle of the day is a big challenge. I usually work during the day in Asheville and so scooting home to Weaverville during those crucial few hours is not always easy.
I have a mentor this year who is lovingly stern with me. I am, I must admit, not the sharpest student. I will report something I find and will hear his advice and will then, um, not do that advised move immediately. He’s gentle with his advice, you see, and I am not always attuned to the necessity of doing what he says as soon as he tells me. But he is not really suggesting, he is telling me what to do. And then, when he finds out I have not done that thing, well, he becomes more emphatic. I’m really learning by experience with this.
I’ve been feeling like the kid who, hearing that a hot stove is HOT, touches it anyway – and gets burned. A few weeks ago I noticed that the bees were making another queen. I knew, in the back of my mind, that was an indication that they were getting ready to swarm, which would take half the colony away. My mentor told me what I should do and, though I heard him, I didn’t do it (I don’t think I realized the urgency) and, sure enough, the bees’ new queen, hatched and left - with half the colony. Now it is like starting over, with a much smaller group of bees. I could have prevented it – but I didn’t.
At this time of year, it is important to see that all the colonies are lively, have a queen, are making babies, and are healthy. I now have four colonies. On last examination, I found two queens, signs of one more, and no indication that there was a queen in the 4th hive. Sigh. I need to check them again – soon – to make sure all is moving in the right direction. If that 4th hive doesn’t make a new queen it will not flourish, will not make it through the winter. If they don’t make a queen I’ll have to buy them one. And if I don’t find that queen in the 3rd hive, well, I might need to buy a new one for them too. The other two hives seem fine, but things can change quickly. My mentor is helping, watching, guiding. But it is intense right now, especially trying to understand what needs to be done.
And in my NOT bee time, it is the busiest time of year. We are in the midst of wedding season. We are in the midst of graduation season. We have a lot of regular catering to do. And, this week, I am going to the White House! Next week I am going to Iowa to present some honey recipes to some national magazine editors. My desk is full and so is my head.
And so, yes, even though the bees need a visit, I must admit to being happy (ish) that it is raining today and I cannot visit them. I’m going to go to sleep early and then, when it is sunny in the next couple of days, I’ll look in and see how they are. I hope they don’t mind waiting a little bit. Just a little bit.