The Plight of Bees

Last Sunday, one of my neighbors called me over to look at a pile of bees sitting on the ground.  The neighbors all know I am into pretty much anything nature related hence the ‘come and look at this’.  I walk over to look and there is a small pile of bees on the ground.  No apparent reason for them to be there and rather odd as it is not swarming season… that is in the Spring.  Nevertheless, there is a cluster of bees.  Know that a swarm is in the air while they are flying, once they land and settle it is called a cluster.  Also know that this cluster was probably 200-300 bees, extremely small for a hive split/swarm.  I start looking for something to put them in as I would definitely like to save them. I have done some amount of reading about bees and the issues they face nowadays.  My wife finds an old bird house after my feeble attempt with an upside down flower pot.  The bird house is definitely better, but we needed a couple of holes for the bees to get in as the normal bird entrance is not that accessible from the ground.

My neighbor, whose yard these bees are in, graciously helps put a couple of ½” holes in the appropriate spot at the bottom of the bird house.  I say graciously because he really does not like bees that much, his dog being almost killed by Africanized bees a few years before; I promised to get them out of his yard.  I put the bird house on the ground next to the cluster of bees, pick a few up with a stick and drop them in front of the holes and they explore a bit, and then start fanning their wings in the entrance.  Lo and behold, all of the bees align towards the birdhouse (or is it now a bee house?) and start walking in.  Pretty cool.  Except I notice a group of 10-20 still staying in one spot.  I bet the queen is in that group.  I start probing at the group and find what I think is the queen (I am not so sure since I have no real experience at this and have never seen a live queen with her other bees); at least it looks a bit different than the rest of them. Too bad it is dead.  I pick it up and put it in the bee house anyway as, even though dead, it should draw the rest of the cluster into their temporary shelter.  Since my wife and I were on the way to do errands, we leave the bee house in place to give them time to get in.  When we get home I check on things and all of the live bees are in the bee house.  So I pick it up gently and take it to my back yard.  Then go into the house and start doing some research on late swarming activity, queenless hives and clusters, etc.

I ran across a lot of information, but the first thing I determined was that the bees were probably hungry.  So I got some honey and put it into a bottle cap and put it near the bee house.  They found it pretty quickly and while only a few at first they soon communicated with the rest of the cluster and they came out in force to get some honey.  That was also pretty cool.  I went back inside to do some more reading.  Well, if the queen was really dead they could be supplied with a new one.  So I emailed a few bee suppliers albeit with little hope of anyone having one as it was very late in the year.  I also found that if they really were queenless and did swarm they would probably abscond from their new (temporary) bee house and go back to their original hive.  Nothing to do but wait until morning and see what happens.

Morning arrives as it always does.  After my chores, I checked on the bee house and they were gone.  Oh well, I guess I will have to wait until Spring to have my beehive.  Why do I want a beehive?  Well in the last couple of years I have learned about the plight of bees.  There is an issue called CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder.  It seems bees are just disappearing out of their hives for no apparent reason.  It is occurring at alarming frequency.  So what?  Well, without bees there will be a food shortage and at least a minor economic crisis.  They are used to pollinate a lot of food crops.  Fruit and nuts are especially dependent but there are many others.  Did you know that bee keepers make a living by trucking beehives around the country, following the seasonal need for crop pollination?   Do you like almonds?  California produces approximately a $2.3 Billion dollar crop annually and the pollination of this crop requires HALF the honey bees in the United States!

So what, you say?  Why in the heck is this guy rambling on about bees and such when this is an engineering company that designs and manufactures HPC clusters?  Well my Marketing Directive for the blog says I can write about anything I want.  This week I am interested in bees, so I am writing about them.  They are not my only interest, but they are at the front of my mind this week.  Am I not paying attention or focusing on work or putting forth much effort there?  Imagine if this guy just concentrated on work!  Ah well, you know the old saying about all work and no play.  Besides, my job is a lot about problem solving, and my chance encounter with a cluster of bees was a problem to solve.  On top of that in the last week I, along with the good people in my department, touched on redundant DC power, a new twin server system, certification of a new Enterprise GPU, sales and technical training for a GPU partner, ISO 9001 compliance, an enhanced cooling capability for our BladeRacks, various and sundry IT related issues including negotiating a new ISP/telephone contract to name a few.  Maybe I will write about one of those things next time or maybe I will write about some of my other favorite things: more animals, firearms, PC gaming, or politics (probably not politics – I am sure Marketing will shut me down there!).  Maybe some entomologist/researcher with a grant from the USDA will stumble on this and see if we can help him/her with an HPC cluster to analyze data about CCD.  Who knows?

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2 Comments

  1. Bees are fascinating. There is an article in today’s Union-Trib about a chef in La Costa who keeps hives and uses honey in many of his food creations. He said it takes the nectar from two million flowers to produce a single pound of honey! I just had to check this out on a couple of websites. Don’t know how they followed them all around, but yep – it’s true.

  2. That was pretty interesting. Random, but interesting.

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