“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”Henry David Thoreau
Immediately after the maple branch fell Sunday evening, I noticed them. Hundreds of tiny bodies flying around the broken trunk left behind. It was so high up and my eyesight is no longer 20/20, but I thought — I hoped, really — that they were honey bees.
We have all heard about the plight of the honey bees — they’re endangered by all the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides — pretty much every cide you can think of. I have noticed on our property alone that the number of honey bees is less than it was when I was a child. Since I took over in 2011, I’ve made sure that the land here stays here organic and pollinator-friendly.
So I was ecstatic when I discovered the second half of hive tucked up in the broken branch on the ground. They were packed in tight. I had a suspicion and it was proven correct when I Googled it: they were protecting the Queen — keeping her safe and warm. I worried about them, though. It was supposed to rain — would they be okay? Should I get a beekeeper to move them?
At the same time, I didn’t want to lose them to someone else’s hive. They were my bees. Or rather, this was their property too — their home may have been damaged, but they were still used to living here. And I wanted them to stay and continue gathering pollen in my garden and helping me grow and heal my orchard.
“Well, I called everyone in our beekeeper club,” the kind man on the phone said. After several phone calls (one to a co-worker who is a master beekeeper) the local extension office put me in touch with a local beekeeper up the road. I could almost hear him scratch his head. “But no one is interested in coming to get the bees and put hives on your property and maintain them.” He paused. “But if you’re interested in keeping bees, we do offer beekeeping classes.”
As he listed everything that I would need to do in order to care for the bees in a hive, I thought, Yeah, that would be a hard no. I love bees, but even WFH full time would not allow me time to take care of them. It’s why I have cats and not children — the little gods take care of themselves. I just need to feed them and keep their loo clean.
I cleared my throat. “So, I’m guessing that bees in the wild have their houses damaged every now and then. Will they just find a new home by themselves?” I gazed out the kitchen window, my eyebrows raised in thought. “Oh, yes,” my neighbor sounded cheerily. I breathed a sigh of relief. “In fact, they’ve probably already sent out scouts to find a new place. The only issue is that it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.”
I waved my hand, forgetting he couldn’t see me. “No problem, I was worried about them and covered them with a flat Amazon box, “ I laughed. “Plenty of those around! And when I checked on them today, they looked cozy and they were safe.”
“Oh good! Yeah, I’m sorry no one is able to help, but just wait a week and then if they’re still there, give us a call and we’ll see what we can do.” I hung up, feeling better about my little bees. Mother Nature isn’t stupid and generally if we leave things alone, they’ll do fine. I just wanted to make sure I was helping them out, not hurting them. And covering them up was the right move – apparently, heavy rain can knock bees to the ground, break their wings, or if water gets in the comb, it can cause rot.
When I went out to get the paper this morning, they were still in their little hidey hole in the branch and I cooed at them and told them they needed to get their new house set up soon – it was going to rain again! And wouldn’t you know, when I went back out in the afternoon to start some flower seeds, I checked and the honeycomb was empty — looks like the queen and her entourage moved to their new digs already!
I am still sad about my beautiful old maple. But she has provided the bees (and I’m certain other wildlife) a home and it looks like she’ll continue to do so. Hopefully the branch isn’t too rotten and we can chop it up for firewood. I touch the wizened skin and whisper a prayer of thanks for her strength throughout the years, the protection and shade she has given us in the summer, and for the warmth this branch will provide this winter. And I promise to plant more of her grandchildren this spring. Maybe another colony of bees will stop by my little patch of paradise and make their home here, too.
It’s nice to have a little sweet with the bitterness of loss.
A member of the Water Street Writers, Mikaela D’Eigh is a writer, poet, gardener, mental wellness advocate, and a lover of Scotch, K-Pop, and KDramas. She writes about anything and everything, using all the crayons in the box. Currently, she lives out in the country with two Egyptian gods disguised as cats, a herd of cows, and the occasional flock of wild turkeys.
During the month of April, I’ll be participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge.
My first book, a memoir on grief, will be available Summer 2021. Follow me on the journey to publication!
Images © MAG, 2021