Monday, April 2, 2012

Honeybee update.

The bees are flying. And if you look very closely at some of these pictures, you might be able to see little yellow-ish sacks of pollen on the backs of some of their hindlegs. See them? Although, that might also be sawdust, which apparently some bees were mistaking for pollen in these last weeks of winter, when it was warm enough for them to fly but hadn't been warm for long enough for the trees and flowers and plants to be producing pollen and nectar. But they're only nibbling at the pollen patty that we put in their hive, so they must be getting something from somewhere these days.

Little A is obsessed with the bees right now. Whenever we come and go through the backyard, she says, "Oh, bees wake up!" or "Oh, bees sleepin'" depending on whether they are out of their hive or not.

We spend what feels like hours -- but is more like minutes -- drawing bees on the blackboard and on the sidewalk.

"See?" I tell her. "The bees go to flowers and get nectar and pollen and then they take it back to their hive and they make honey!"

This gets repeated many times a day. It's sort of a "story" for her and it serves to assure me that keeping bees in the backyard is helping her learn something. Something about production? Or supply and demand? Or the natural world? Or the cycles of the seasons? Well, something more than just this:

Whenever I get close to the hives without a bee suit on -- such as when I took the pictures above -- Little A tells me "Be really careful. Stand back. Like me. Bees get in your face. Stand back. Like me. Like me!" And eventually I must respond to her commands and move to the other side of the yard with her. She hasn't yet been stung -- we don't think, anyway -- but she knows from our own warnings that we need to be cautious around the bees. Respectful.

The other evening when we were drawing the bees on the chalkboard and when I got to the end of my explanation of how they make honey, A turned to me and said, "Share?"

"Yeah," I said, half-laughing. "They sort of share with us."

"And we sort of just take it from them," I said under my breath.

It's a tricky dynamic, I suppose, and not one I'm likely to get into with a two year old. We sort of help the bees, but mostly we just contain them, and they're really industrious so they make a lot of honey -- more than they could ever eat -- and so we take the "extra." (Or we plan to -- we'll have to see how they do this year.)

But she's just two and we're talking a lot (A LOT) about sharing these days, so the lessons about symbiotic versus parasitic relationships and insect self-awareness and top-down and bottom-up power structures are going to have to wait.

In the meantime, we'll eat honey. Fingers crossed.

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