Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bathroom Bees

dying bee in my handThis blog has gone post-less this weekend, in part because the beekeeper has been a bit listless, and in part because – right after Rocky's departure – it proceeded to rain, and rain, and rain.

From a beekeeping standpoint, this is mostly OK. We had 60 days of total drought, and the rain gives us our last chance for any natural nectar flow that might be out there before the temperatures finally fall into the 50s. The bees get a bit frazzled after a couple of days, though. Some of the more anxious ones seem to be the eldest, the workers who have almost no hormones left for in-the-hive work. If a break comes in the rain, it seems like a few try to fly out, and are often surprised before they can get back in. We learned this because some storm-tossed bees shelter under the edges of the skylights on the roof, and discovered how to crawl inside through little cracks of which we were unaware.

We end up with bathroom bees, as well as a caulking and sealing chore on the to-do list for when those temps do fall.

The bee above appeared in our bathtub this morning. I tried to feed her a little water and honey, but it appears to be no-go. Four other bees turned up, mostly livelier, some hungrier, all released out of the back door. Bathroom bees are, perhaps wrong headedly, kind of an up moment in my day. After all the aggression in late summer, it makes me feel better to hold a bee and a q-tip with water on one end, a drop of honey on another, and offer up a snack. I only use my own honey, that little bit that got entered in the fair. Good hygiene, doncha know. It's a nice quiet moment, and I keep them around until I know the temperature is not bee-fatal and the break in the rain is real.

There is a down side to all the rain, of course. The bees are getting an early start eating their winter stores at a time when they are less likely to be able to replenish them, and I need to get into the hives to place the last medications of the season: stuff for Nosema and those cursed Varroa mites. The temperature trend printed in the paper says I still have a little time, but they also said we would have some rain in September.

But rainy days are, in the end, days of peace and replenishment, and a time to think. And the bees have affected how I think about the lives of individual buzzing and breathing and barking things. Sometimes those drops of rain are excellent cover for how I feel about the whole thing, and sometimes they just seem to make things a deeper, richer green.

1 comment:

Phang said...

Today we had another bathroom bee, and I thought she was a goner. She was in a small puddle of water at the bottom of the tub: small, sopping, and awfully still. I saw a twitch though, so I grabbed some toilet tissue and blotted her gently. Toilet tissue is great for wicking the water quickly out of small arthropods, in case that might come in handy for you.

Even dry, though, it didn't look good. I figured her for a loss, but I brought her down to the kitchen, and put a drop of honey on the tissue in front of her. A blob landed on her head, and I cursed my clumsiness. But voila! Her little tongue popped out, and then her butt started to pump slightly.

That, my friends, is a sign of life.

She ate almost all the honey, and then started sort of jerking about, but without the use of her legs. I figured they had broken, and wondered if I should squish her.

Little by little, however, life spread down her body. First her mouth parts starting going, then her wings popped up from her back, no longer seeming plastered to her side. Her middle legs started moving, and there was a very short "BIZZZT!" as her wings gave a flap. I walked to the back porch, and cupped my hands, still not sure if she would ever be fully functional.

She threw herself back and forth in my palms, buzzing manicly, then her legs got set under her, and she flew out of my hands and over the garden wall.

I love bees.