Here at Peace Bee Farm we have always made it a practice of working with nature to grow healthy honey bees and produce the finest products possible. It was with a great sense of pride that we established this as one of our guiding principles. Working with nature, however, brings some unexpected twists to running our farm. We didn’t anticipate that we would be delayed in bottling honey for our markets last week due to a fox squirrel shorting out the high-voltage line serving electricity to our honey house. House wrens regularly nest in our wood shop where we assemble bee hives. They are a welcomed sight with a cheerful sound. Today, I shared the shop with an armadillo that wandered into the open door. Armadillos, those armored mammals that look like reptiles, entered this part of the Arkansas Delta a few years ago along with invasive fire ants. The fire ants got their name from the fact that their sting burns like fire. None of these creatures should be of great concern over time. They are a distraction for now, however. The reclusive fox squirrels keep their distance, and never before harmed anything. Armadillos may actually be benefiting the bees and beekeepers be eating small hive beetle pupae in the soil, helping break the life cycle of this recently introduced pest. Unless the powerful armadillos burrow under a bee hive stand, we usually ignore them. We have not found a way to accept the stinging fire ants yet. They seem to be replacing the native ants that served to help clean the bee hives and eat some of the bee pests, such as parasitic mites.
We continue to work with nature; we know that we are most effective in managing honey bees when we accommodate their natural behavior. Beekeeping is applied honey bee biology. The closer we can mesh with their nature the better we can keep the bees healthy and productive. We welcome native ants in the soil to help control beetle pests and owls in the air to help control mice. We also keep in mind that beekeepers are only part of nature. Nature enriches our life, occasionally humbles us, and sometimes provides us a laugh at ourselves. As far as the fox squirrels and armadillos go, I don’t have any complaints. I haven’t accepted the fire ants yet, though.