Spring is really here, despite the fact that it never really seemed to be winter this year. The season goes by so quickly here that I'm never satisfied; plus I only got to go skiing once thanks to this wasting disease. Anyway, the trees are starting to come out in that mist of barely-there green, daffodils are coming up in cheery clumps, and apricot blossoms are beginning to pop. I walked by one tree yesterday that had a frenzy of bees around it, enjoying their first taste of nectar this year. I've been thinking a lot about bees lately, having read A Book of Bees, by Sue Hubbell, as well as meeting a family in town who keeps bees in their tiny urban backyard. Bees are fascinating creatures, and the book was excellent.
I first encountered Sue Hubbell in her book A Country Year, a lovely account of her farm and life in the Ozarks, and was pleased to find this newer book about beekeeping, which was her source of income. She kept three hundred hives all over the state of Missouri, which, naturally, occupied her time fully, but she says that having two or three hives in one's back garden is really no more trouble than a dog or cat. And after seeing the hives kept by our new friends, it's clear not only that this is true but also that it can be done nearly anywhere. Even urban settings are usually well-provided with flowering trees and plants, and for the times when there is little nectar, a supply of sugar water in the hive keeps the bees going.
A Book of Bees is an excellent start for anyone interested in beekeeping, as it includes practical information on acquiring and caring for bees, diagrams of hives and their various parts, all seasonal activities such as harvesting and wintering, catching swarms, and the problems that may occur. All this is part of a story, well-written and absorbing, rather than a how-to guide, and is a wonderful inspiring read.
An amusing sidenote: An acquaintance of mine noticed the book in my bag one day and asked me if it was scary! She didn't quite seem to understand when I told her it was actually about keeping bees. Hmm. I think I have odd interests.