Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Note from the Road: A Better Place for Bees?

bee in red nasturiumFor the past couple of weeks, we have been on vacation in Europe. Highlights have included a visit with a real-life British beekeeper, purchasing honey from bees who live on the roof of the Paris Opera, and driving my family crazy with constant bee-spotting. This bee was working outside a small church in Warminster, Wiltshire.

It is much cooler weather-wise here than on the US East Coast, and I mean just about ANYWHERE on the East Coast. We have had nights in the low 50s (Fahrenheit) and no day has managed to break 80. This after flying away on a day when the temperature topped 100 and I prayed that the bee cool units would keep working for two weeks.

In England, France, and Germany (no, we were not in Belgium on Tuesday) the Hydrangeas are still blooming, and I would like to report the general ubiquity of buddleia. That's "butterfly bush" to those less annoying than me, a vigorous plant that attracts every kind of pollintor imaginable. The bumblebees mostly seem to have pretty white butts here, though there are some dark girls in the bushes, and the yellow jackets seem similar. The Germans told me that our word for bumblebee was better than theirs, and I told them that their weather is better than ours. Score one point for trans-Atlantic harmony.

Coming into Britain, there was a big picture of a honey jar with an X through it at Customs. This worried me no end. I asked everyone except the Customs people about it (why invite trouble?), but I might enquire on the way out, tomorrow.

Our friends, knowing of my obsession, arranged tea with a fellow bee enthusiast. The beekeeper we met in the English West Country had lovely woodenware that was kind of flared, if you can imagine that. I hope my pix come out. It was kind of odd in a way, I am so used to talking about what breeds o'bees that beekeepers are trying in the States, but he appears to have a healthy stock of wild bees around him, and naturally bred Queens that do just fine. It is just easier to be a bee on the Salisbury Plain.

From the railway between Paris and Stuttgart, every German town seems to have an abundance of pocket garden plots, perhaps a memory of those hard postwar days when a few vegetables (or jars of honey) could keep ones' children fed. Like the States, however, our German friends reported that general fear of bees kept apiaries out in orchards or rural hillsides, though I did spot at least one good sized set of colonies (painted blue) somewhere around Baden-Baden.

My luggage is now three jars of honey heavier as we prepare to return, admirable restraint if you ask me. Acacia, wildflower, and Paris City honey in case you are curious. I sure hope U.S. Customs isn`t.

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