Nature generally restores the land, plants, and animals after disturbance. In my recent travel across the American West, I came upon two large-scale examples. First, I visited in the town of Wallace, Idaho on the one hundredth anniversary of the great fire of August, 1910, the largest fire in American history. The forests are completely re-grown and there remains no evidence of the massive fire, which killed 90 people and destroyed most of the silver mining town of Wallace. Wallace, in today’s picture, is recognized as the location of the fictional movie, Dante’s Peak. Next, I travelled through Yellowstone National Park, which encountered massive fires in 1988. The fires, mostly caused by lightning, spread rapidly along the ground, fueled by a heavy layer of debris from evergreen trees damaged by pine bark beetles. Today, after 22 years, evergreen trees stand 10 feet high among the scorched trunks of trees killed in the fire. Grasses and wildflowers cover the ground where sunlight now encourages growth. Some mountain slopes are carpeted in pink blossoms of fireweed, often the first flowering plant to arise after a forest fire. I observed large numbers of animals thriving in the re-growth of the understory plants. A mule deer browsed on a diverse stand of wildflowers. A spruce grouse and her clutch of chicks moved cautiously between tufts of native grasses growing next to bubbling volcanic mud pots.
The resiliency of nature gives me hope that our honey bees will rebound from the simultaneous attacks they have encountered from numerous sources: pests, pathogens, chemicals in the environment, and the stresses placed upon the bees by the beekeepers. We often attempt to use the honey bees as agricultural tools to pollinate food crops grown in mono-cultural plantings which don’t afford the bees adequate or complete nutrition. The honey bees should respond to efforts to breed resistance to parasitic mites and other pests and pathogens. Chemicals can be prudently applied, and nutrition improved through diverse wildflower growth.