Saturday, September 30, 2006


Hub is a bit chaffed with me since yesterday when he decided to independently make tomato soup. I should have probably gone to the other room but I didn’t, so that’s when the trouble started. First thing I had to tell him is because tomato soup is acidic he would have to transfer his soup from the aluminum kettle to a stainless steel pot. That’s how it started. Then there was the too and fro’ about whether sugar reduces acid, about whether the addition of cream would make the soup curdle, about what vegetables should be carmelized with the onions, about peeling tomatoes, and about bay leaves, basil, pepper corns etc. Hub was beside himself over all these orders and who could blame him?

Now go ahead and sympathize with Hub while I tell you about this morning’s events. This morning I was sitting on the deck beside my pot of lavender and white pansies when I saw a movement among the blossoms. On closer examination I discovered the movement was a sluggish honeybee. Lumbering silently over petals to get to the center of a flower. Silent, slow-moving, staggering, legs gimpy and folded. Moving like a clumsy track-machine he progressed over the outer edge of the flower by crawling into a perpendicular position until I thought he might flip over backwards, but he didn’t. Eventually, after teetering precariously on the edge, his body overbalanced and he toppled forward into the center of the flower where he lay still as if mortally wounded for some time before he eventually began weakly sipping nectar.

Now I am no ‘bee whisperer’ and although I couldn’t look in his eyes and see sadness and fear, I knew he was both sick and sad. After all, normally when honeybees are gathering nectar, they buzz happy songs and do a happy dance. This bee was soundless. Without song. Without dance. Lumbering around with such pain and discouragement that I could not help the sad feeling of concern that welled up in my breast.

I wondered if the beekeeper down the road had lifted the hives for the winter. I wondered if this sad bee had stayed out too late and been shut out. Just then I saw another bee, equally fettered by discouragement and sadness. I was relieved there was more than one but no more than two. Not like the year I awoke one frosty morning to find thousands of bees blanketing a warm place in the sun on the cab of Hub’s pick-up. Swarming, not as loyal sentinels of a Queen, but as heat-seekers endeavoring to survive. The hives were gone, the chill of frost in the air, and they had no place to go for warmth or comfort. It was a massacre of such massive proportions that I will never forget it.

Now I was not much more than a toddler when my Grandfather had bees, but Mother told me about the day I was napping on his bed and suddenly awoke with a scream and flailing arms yelling “There’s something hot in my bed!” A search indicated that there was a bee in the bed. And from that story, I know that in the fall Grandfather would seal up one of the hives and take it in to his cabin to keep his bees over winter. But what I don’t know is what supplies or furnishings were in that hive to make the period of their confinement comfortable.

But as I contemplated this method of wintering bees, I also thought of the miniatures that sit on the little shelves by my kitchen window. A six-inch high old-fashioned cream separator with tiny milk pails and a wee cream can. A tiny cast iron replica of a wood stove with a tiny poker and removable stove lids the size of dimes. So why couldn’t I make a tiny wooden bee hive to harbor two homeless and sad bees? I will make a little beehive replica and paint it white. But what will those bees need? Perhaps nothing more than a wee bit of paraffin wax and a gob of honey. Could it be possible that is all they would need? But what about bee frames? Do they need bee frames so they can do their craft in order to alleviate their boredom and to keep philosophical hope alive? And do those frames need some kind of filament or could I just hang a tiny picture frame on edge where they could fashion their own canvas mesh to do their work?

As I thought about these things, the possibility began to seem real. I called Hub out to the deck to let him know what I was thinking. I saw that look of sympathy that crossed his face as he examined the two morose little bees in the pansy-pot. And I should have been surprised when Hub told me the beehives in the field had been taken up the day before. But I wasn’t. The two sad little bees had already communicated that fact to me. But now, the hard confirmation of two wee creatures with no home or shelter did nothing more than warm my heart even more to rescue efforts. That is, until I suddenly realized a further complication.

As I said before, I don’t know a lot about bees but one thing I do know is that without their Big Mama, they cannot maintain a household. “Oh dear,” I said to Hub, “as easy as it sounds, it isn’t going to work, not without a Queen to rally them and tell them what to do.”

Hub chuckled and I know he was thinking of his soup-making efforts when he said, “Build your beehive. Bring them in. They’ll do well in your kitchen!”


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