There is every likelihood that the honeybees swarming in and around the cantaloupe and squash blossoms are ours. Our Girls. Those industrious ladies who shack up in the hives my partner, Kel, and I put together two years ago.
I can't help but feel tugs of the maternal kind when I see them. There is much activity now around the entrances to the hives: guard bees on the lookout for intruders; single-minded workers arriving with pollen-laden hind legs and new bees memorizing their home with wobbly orientation flights.
There is also every likelihood that Kel and I are the worst beekeepers on the planet. In fact, I call what we do (or rather, don't do), "beehosting," rather then beekeeping. (I wrote about it at length on Dough, Dirt & Dye.) Those early hive "inspections" proved so traumatic for us and for the bees that we decided to take the less-is-more approach and allow the bees to do what they've done, unaided, for thousands of years. We no longer open the hives or blast them with smoke, and we've never once harvested honey. We made that decision before we became vegans because it made sense to us that during the lean late winter months they should consume what they had so painstakingly created with all those air hours and probing of petals. Providing them with a cheap substitute—sugar syrup—didn't appeal. And we had no stomach for pulling apart their beautiful honeycomb simply because we wanted to sweeten our tea.
For the humble shelter we provide, Our Girls perform a valuable service for which we are grateful. They pollinate our fruit trees and tomato plants and zucchini; they sneak into the greenhouse and inspect the citrus plants and the basil. They love basil. And Kel and I enjoy watching them go about their business—with absolutely no interest or concern for us. Just as it should be.
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