Dateline: April 12, 2015
It was quite breezy along the front range in Colorado today. A strong high pressure pushed air currents over the Rockies and pulled down some cooler Canadian air.
One of Zephyr’s effects was to tug at the many petals that had emerged these past 10 days or so, as spring had sprung to life. I was noticing mostly the brilliant whites and pink blossoms of fruit trees, not to mention lilacs and many others. The petals, like mute winged fairies, floated gently, settling near their twiggy sources.
I recall last year about this time — when working on pruning some shrubs and doing some early weeding — that I heard a tremendous buzzing. Like an enormous joy-buzzer was going off in the neighborhood. I could not discern its source, so I continued busily at my tasks.
After a few minutes of attentive listening while puttering away, the source become evident: our non-fruit-bearing apple tree only 15 feet away was in brilliant full bloom! Upon it and about it were thousands and thousands of bees doing their business.
It was beautiful. I moved myself right up to the trunk of the tree, leaning against it, and enjoyed the sense of life happening all around me.
We’ve heard so much about bees being in great distress. It was good to see them healthy, buzzing, making honey for their hives and maybe some Pooh Bear somewhere. Life on earth would be so much poorer without the diligent contributions of the hardworking honey bee.
This year it’s been different. As I’ve walked about the neighborhood and worked in our yard this past week I have heard no buzzing.
At first I didn’t think much of it. Then I guessed perhaps it was a sort of tone-deafness on account of the incessant ringing I’ve had (at just under 4,700Hz) in my head since the car crash, last May 1.
But no. I’ve walked right up and into the branches of many full-bloom fruit trees. There are hardly any bees. On each tree I can find at most two, or three. No Buzz. This saddened me.
I’m usually rather skeptical to the insistence of greenies and tree-huggers that we have to do this, and do that, and sacrifice our way of life, in order to save this or that aspect of Mother Earth.
But the plight of the bees is, I believe, real. Bee populations have been caving. Hive collapses (CCD: Colony Collapse Disorder) are epidemic. They’ve been overcome by parasites, most notable Nosema ceranae. Fungicides have made the problem worse; not necessarily by directly killing the insects, but by weakening their resistance to parasites. And insecticides have indeed had a direct effect; if not killing adult bees, then by killing the larvae who consume nectar from the pollen.
Agriculture in this country would take a horrible beating if we lost our bees, not to mention much natural beauty.
I’m kind of ashamed to admit that as a young boy I would catch bees in jars, like empty Flintstone Jelly or Skippy peanut butter jars. Actually, I’m also kind of ashamed to admit that I ate Skippy. But what did I know? I recall once proudly showing my mum a jar full of perhaps two dozen honeybees, and a few clover blossoms, in an old jar. She was not impressed.
Wisconsin lawns were full of sweet, sweet clover. And the bees loved it. It was almost unfair. Almost. When a wee bee lit on the little pollen laden ball-looking blossoms, I’d lean over, crack the lid of the jar, and slide it over the bee and blossom together … and into the jar they would go. There may have been some informal contest between some lads in the neighborhood to see who could capture the most bees. In the end, we’d set them free. We often got a sting or two in the process.
Later, with more than a twinge of guilt, I learned that honey bees die shortly after delivering their sting. So simply are they designed that they make the ultimate sacrifice just to defend their blossom, their payload, or their hive … which is pretty much all the same thing to them.
Catching Fire Flies was more difficult. No sweet bait to lure them. But it was more practical, no? If you could catch a whole jarful you’d have a natural lantern for the rest of the evening. Try as we might, it never seemed to work out that way. My sister was better at catching fire flies: more patience. But at least we didn’t get stung. And no fire flies died.
I actually do miss the buzz. The spring buzz. Busy bees are buzzy. And that’s good. But if the ringing in my head ever goes away, I won’t miss that [(it’s not really in my ears, but I “hear” it)].
Meanwhile, my knee replacement recovery is going well. Of course, it’s not as quick or as continuously improving as I’d like. It still swells and gets a bit cranky. The muscles are learning how to work with their new partner.
I had written just before the replacement surgery that my left knee — the one I called “Click” — was going away. [essay here]
Well, I have a surprise lately: new knees “click.” Especially when climbing stairs, or when tired. Turns out the muscles have to tighten up a bit after surgery and patients can experiencing clicking — even clunking — for a year, or more. Oh well.
Now I call my left knee “Double Click.” Or sometimes “Click Two”; (or Click Too). It’s like a whole new relationship.
Today’s breezes portend things to come later this week. Some chilly, wet and breezy weather should bring much needed moisture and … gasp! … perhaps a few inches of snow. A not uncommon occurrence in Colorado — April snow. But it usually means bad news for all those white, purple and pink pretty petals.
Good news/bad news about Double Click: I no longer get arthritic pain when storms approach and descend upon us. That’s good, but I had gotten used to the extra warning.
Cheers and wishing you a healthy spring and a fruitful summer!
Joe Girard © 2015
Postscript update, April 13, 2015: The bees are back. I heard and found them en masse during neighborhood walk today! Yay! Not quite as many as last year, but the apple tree in our front yard was abuzz this afternoon. (see photo below).