…From The Desk Of Jayne Battey

We were in the office, with the doors thrown open on a spectacular spring day, and I was on the phone with a client. But the hum coming from just outside the office was growing in volume and intensity. Was someone operating a low-volume chainsaw in the front yard?

I cut my call short, and along with my two puzzled coworkers, walked outside to see a dark cloud of flying insects fill the sky just above our heads. We were stunned and watched open-mouthed as the bees (we could see now that they were bees) continued to swarm and sway in a gentle onshore breeze. The good news: The bees paid absolutely no attention to us. The bad news: The bees, about 40,000 of them, were streaming out of a small crevice in the front turret of our old farmhouse.

That is where Miramar Farms’ romance with the honeybee begins. Well, actually, it begins about 20 years before this. When we bought this 1906 farmhouse in 1994, we knew it had been a haven for honeybees, but after our initial retrofit work included the removal of the old walls filled with honeycomb, we thought our honeybee days were done.

front of house_medium

Farmhouse, circa 1996

They were not. Over the last 20 years we’ve removed over 60,000 bees from the walls of the house, along with 5-10 gallons of honey. Yes, honey in the walls of the house. I love honey as much as the next person, but not in the walls of my house.

So, fast-forward to 2013. The bees are back. I’ll spare you the details, but with the help of two bee experts and three contractors, the house is secure [again] and the bees are happily housed in 15 lovely beehives as far from the house as possible. Now, about one year to the day from our last big swarm, as the weather heats up, I breath a sigh of relief that there is no swarm or buzz emanating from our upstairs front bedroom (yet?).

Beehouses, circa 2013.

Honeybees have become big news in the farming community, scientific journals and the popular press. “Colony collapse” is a serious concern, as bee colonies around the world are disappearing at unprecedented levels. The most-recent thinking links this collapse to pesticides and an infection connected to mites, but the exact cause remains elusive. As go the bees, so goes our vegetable, fruit, nut and flower crop.

Honeybee landing.

Honeybees fascinate us. For many, they evoke childhood memories of easier days when we watched them do their work flower to flower; or they evoke memories of that first painful sting, when we learned to keep a respectful distance from things that bite or sting (a life lesson for sure). But honeybees, as distinct from all other bees or insects, also offer the unique gift of honey—the only insect to offer food to humans.

I love our honeybees; I respect and value our honeybees. We’ll promise to stay out of the garden during the hottest time of the day so they can forage and do their work without interruption (I can take a hint—when they “bump” me at 2:00 in the afternoon when I try to pick flowers). I only ask that they stay out of my house—like any good friend they can come visit, but no more setting up camp and inviting their 40,000 friends over to make honey.

tending the garden

Join us at Miramar Farms on May 18 for a Special Breakfast and Talk with our beekeeper:  What’s the Buzz About Honey Bees? Advance registration required.