Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hot weather hive grows a beard

Given the scorching weather we’ve endured for so many weeks, you’d hardly think it time to sport a beard. But check out the colony. These little ones are right on schedule with a distinctive fashion statement.

The hive lets it all hang out.

Yeah, it’s called ‘bearding.’ This mass might look startling to the uninitiated, but it has a real purpose, as does everything associated with the hive.  This phenomenon typically occurs when daytime temperatures approach 100F.  And in our region, they certainly have.

Getting personal with the peeps. No worries.

Over the months, this hive has evolved from struggling colony to an organism of massive power and energy.  The number of workers hanging in that beard alone easily double the crew installed last April. And unseen are the cadres of nurse and maintenance bees remaining inside who constantly tend to the affairs of the queen and the developing brood.

April 2012. What a difference!

So why are they just hanging there? These folk are mostly daytime foragers, and after sunset they have nothing to do.  But on hot summer nights, to crowd back into the hive along with the maintenance crew would only elevate the hive’s internal temperature to dangerous, brood-killing levels.  So they hang out, literally, on the front porch, chillin.’

Whether the weather is freezing cold or boiling hot, a colony knows to regulate its internal temperature to a sweet 90-95F.  How interesting that the optimal temperature for this super-organism falls so closely to that of humans.  Whether organizing to fan moisture throughout the hive for evaporative cooling, or clumping together in the center to conserve heat, universal principles apply.  Think of these as analogs to our mammalian panting and shivering.

Indeed, some of these folk work all night as part of the air conditioning system.  Note the workers in the picture below with their abdomens up in the air. These little ones perch facing the hive opening. Their rapidly beating wings create the equivalent of a turbo wash behind an airplane sitting on the runway. You can easily feel this breeze against the back of your hand six to eight inches from the hive.

Fanners create an easily detectable breeze

And this is only what we can see from the outside. Inside, more rows of fanning workers have already pushed air down through the hive toward that opening.  The sound of all this activity is quite wonderful – a continuous muted sussuration, perhaps the insect equivalent of the unending word of God.  Its murmured ‘aummm’ invites you to pull up a bench, sit down and hum along. . .

Stay cool, folks.


Apologia for a sabbatical

Although I have been silent here (this blog) for many weeks, I must report that all is quite well in Central Virginia. . . remarkable, even.  Initially, changes in the work (and hence, writing) schedule made this practice less approachable on a regular basis.  But more importantly, I have been uncertain how in the world to write down the things I am experiencing.  I must confess that I have nursed this gap in my output with some despair.

To be sure, our honeybees still buzz, our hens strut and cluck, the vegetables and berries bloom, the birds flit, and squirrels scramble madly up and down nearby oaks.  I could have reported this.  That we are bursting with life.  That we are surrounded by a living, breathing world that has the capacity to enchant in an instant.  That I added first a ‘deep’ and now a ‘super’ to our thriving beehive.  That our Maran went broody, or that our new Rhode Island Red pullets sound like aspiring oboists still mastering the hardship of honking through a double reed instrument.

And in this enveloping canvas of vibrant green, under this arching canopy of soft-edged blue. . . even in the suddenly wilting heat of early July (today it was 104F), what a gift to call this place home!  I should like to have been reporting all of this in vivid detail these past weeks. But I have been stilled.

And now to the point.  I can barely write, these days.  Not when the very molecules of the air have begun to emit a subtle luminosity.   The world is glowing, friend. Have you noticed, by any chance?  This becomes more apparent in the hours near sunset.  Many are the evenings that I cannot bear to preoccupy my head and hands in work, preferring rather to simply bask in the flow of this. . . this fountain of reality.

Remove the nozzle from a garden hose, point the hose up in your hand and turn on the pressure. Do you see how the water tumbles up and out in a dancing cascade?  This is my metaphor for how the world continuously comes into being.  It was not created long ago; it is being created now, instant by instant.  And not from one point, but from all points.  Consider that revolution in perspective.  The world is anything but static.

Most of us walk a path well removed from the edge of creation, shielded by the compelling urgency of our own stories, our own thoughts.  By the time you think about it, the dancing cascade has hardened into facts, outlooks, obligations.  You can never see what your thoughts will not allow.

I suppose it may be me. . .  just a well-meaning dude with a blog who picked this moment to go around the bend – and quite happily forgot to come back.  And that’s fine. Or is it you, too, reader?  Have you noticed anything different in the world, the air, the cells of your being?  I would prefer to think that it is both of us.  Perhaps all we need is a gentle shaking. Wake up! There are miracles waiting in the space between your thoughts.

I shall continue to write and make notes here at times, hopefully picking up the pace again.  I see this season’s young deer gingerly exploring the back lot.  Foxes regularly visit us at night, barking out their frustration at the tasty poultry that roost just out of reach in well-secured pens.  I should like to consider all these in time.  But, for all you left-brainers out there (and we are still so legion), the tone may become mildly  unrealistic annoying mmm. . . challenging.  So be it.

In peace.