Saturday, December 24, 2022

Pax Vobiscum


The sun is setting across the snow-covered rolling hills of the PalouIse of eastern Washington State . This is the region where I am spending  the winter months with family members. Much of the country is experiencing an exceptionally strong winter storm, and beekeepers’ efforts to protect their colonies are being severely tested. Only in the spring will we find how effectively we prepared our hives for winter. The colonies relatively free of parasitic mites will survive if their hives are adequately ventilated, and the colonies have enough stored food that the bees can readily access. Healthy colonies generate heat by eating honey, the high-energy food that they make themselves, and vibrating their flight muscles. Bees can generate a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit in their flight muscles. While I visit the frigid Pacific Northwest, I am confident that my colonies in Arkansas are faring well in their stormy weather. Before leaving Arkansas, I measured their mite loads and ensured that they had plenty of stored food supplies. The bees are clustered in dry hives.


I am most grateful for the kind sentiments and words of support provided to me by beekeepers and acquaintances from around the country and even around the world following the death of Rita, one of the founders of Peace Bee Farm. As well as being a cheerful and devoted life partner, she was an integral part of the bee business. Now, other family members are learning the art and craft of beekeeping. In this cold, wintery holiday season observed by many of the world’s great religions and traditions, I offer warm wishes that peace be with you.


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

An Ancient Tradition Repeated

The death of Elizabeth II, the Queen of England brings public expressions of sympathy conveyed in traditions dating back hundreds of years. It also brings about a private expression of sympathy that also dates back through the centuries. John Chapple, the queen’s royal beekeeper, quietly notified the bees of the queen’s death, John travelled to Buckingham Palace and Clarence House to notify the bees that their mistress had died and that they would have a new master, Aware of the significance of the loss of a loved one, it was Queen Elizabeth who told us, “Grief is the cost of love.”


As summer ends, goldenrod comes into bloom and attracts bees and myriad native pollinators. Today, a honey bee collects pollen: protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals to feed her colony’s brood. Flowers bring rebirth. Reassuring, along with Elizabeth’s words.


Monday, July 4, 2022

Move the Hives an Inch


There is a tradition that has been passed down for hundreds of years in which the bees are notified of the death of their keeper. The bees are notified by moving the hives an inch. Today, we told the bees of the death of Rita Underhill, who along with her husband, Richard, founded Peace Bee Farm. Rita, formerly Rita Peace, helped convert the family farm, a row-crop operation in the Arkansas Delta, into Peace Bee Farm. Together, the Underhills managed bees in Tennessee and Arkansas. Rita bottled honey and greeted regular customers at farmers markets. She regularly helped manage the bee hives and grafted bee larvae to produce queen bees. Peace be with you, Rita.


Rita in the Honey House
Rita Inspecting Her Grafted Queen Cells