By Bonnie Meyer, Phase I Fellow
As we plunge head-on into the long-awaited spring, the full fledging buzz has finally arrived on the mountain—in a very literal sense. The pollinators are upon us again, and one can hear, see, and feel their presence all around. You see them hard at work aiding in the blossoms of our dandelions, lilacs, and all of the local flora. Here on the mountain, there seems to be an abundant and diverse presence of pollinators around. This, however, will be the story of our friend apis mellifera – AKA, the honeybee.
I think that being around the hive is one of the most transcending experiences you might have. It’s one in which you have the privilege of entering the honeybees’ world. It’s an all sensory experience making one acutely hyper-aware of their surroundings. At the same time, the bees’ soothing vibrations and rhythm is incredibly calming. The nearest analogy I have to it is riding “Space Mountain” at Disney World as a youngin’ – it’s dark, flashing, buzzing – while pulling you in to a completely meditative state at the same time.
Not only do we as Fellows have the amazing resource of being up-close-and-personal with nature and its bounties, but there is also another resource just as rich we have access to – people. One thing I appreciate so much about AMI is the opportunity to interact and learn from farmers, producers, and nourishers of the food system in the area and hear their stories. Each story these people’s journey into the food system is incredibly unique. As Fellows, we are vessels from them to invoke their own passion into our experience and to see what brought them to their particular interests in food.
In May, we had the honor of having a local Monterey beekeeper show us the ropes of beekeeping and to share their journey into the world of apiculture. What struck me most about our instructor was their ability to seemingly access the queendom of bees and understand a bee’s life. It surpassed the knowledge of bee biology and function; it was as if she tapped into visualization from the bees’ own world. Here are some of the takeaways from our up close and personal day with our honeybees.
Apis Mellifera see through their large, black, imposing eyes, but it’s infrared.
Most of their communication is done through scent and the release of pheromones. The colony could not function without these highly intricate systems of smells.
They are incredibly neat and tidy beings in the animal world. They are even courteous enough to go outside the hive to poop in an ecofriendly place!
A worker bee only has a life cycle of 30 days during the summer months. Imagine flapping those wings all day every day. One can tell the age of a honeybee through her wings.
It’s an autocratic society – the hive cannot function normally without their queen. To keep her dominance, the queen must kill the other queens.
This only covers the tip of the apiary iceberg, of course. We witnessed the honeybees carrying nectar, preparing brood, and carefully orchestrating comb for the season. And this was only the beginning… We look forward to being so close to their world over the course of season and how it changes. Equally, we look forward to the many workshops planned over the course of the season and the opportunity to engage with more nourishers of our food system. To “bee” continued…