Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 27, 2009

Bees and a Few Words

I’m using the gray-but-not-raining-so-far day to sweep together some chapters, pull together a good chunk of work to attack and explore at a writing retreat I’m going to tomorrow. No thunder, so the dogs aren’t panicky, and it’s hot enough that they seem happy to nap. I did take off work for about an hour to take in a bit of Franklin Land Trust’s Farm and Garden Tour, stopping at an apiary just across the border of our town.

Owner Don Conlon told me that the bees were sluggish, too, waiting for sun for most of the month. I was cautioned to stay about eight feet away from the hives, and I tripled that length, though apparently the bees bump before they’re apt to bite. I wasn’t feeling into the contact thing, but happily sniffed my way around. Like monarch butterflies, bees are fond of milkweed, and generally the older the flower the better. Sometimes Bonita and Don Conlon bring the bees on field trips to orchards where they do good deeds, pollinating apples or peaches.

I sampled some tasty honey mustard and honey-lime barbeque sauce. Sadly, though I dithered, the honey ice cream wasn’t ready by the time I left.

I asked why the hives were painted different colors. Don Conlon said that there were many reasons. First, he buys paint on sale, and isn’t fussy about colors. But also, bees notice color, and, after venturing out, can find their way back to their particular hive by way of its color. The darker colors keep the bees snug on chilly days, he said. So really lots of reasons, besides how cool they look. It was time to go back, and try to pull out layers in my writing: nothing there, or not too much, for just one reason, but several.



  1. Ah! That’s so cool. The stacked boxes look like a work of art.

  2. Crissa, yes, it was cool. It’s the next town south of Greenfield, MA if you’re back visiting! And in the mood for honey!

  3. Hey, that’s why our HOUSE is different colors!
    What’s the retreat? Have a great time!

  4. Sounds like a perfect day to me!
    Enjoy the retreat. (Oh, how I wish I could bee there!)

  5. Glad you have some Yankee practicality re house colors! But hope, unlike the bees, you could still find it no matter the colors.
    Have a good weekend!

  6. Of course I thought of you, though it was sad to see no one buzzing. What a boring month I guess it’s been for bees.
    So many be/bee jokes do you make a day, Loree?
    I wish you were going, too!

  7. Such a picturesque apartment complex. Bees are so fascinating!
    Write on. Have a great time.
    I’ll be reading my new book, Anne Hutchinson’s Way this afternoon.

  8. Yes, I keep learning more from and about bees, and was glad these ones have such nice homes and gardens.
    Thanks for reading Anne H! Talk about amazing… she did this?! she did that! .. imagine how hard it was to cut to make a 32 page book.

  9. I sympathize with those sluggish bees. Hope you have sunny weather (and lots of fun) on your retreat!

  10. The retreat is great, though I wish I took a bit more advantage of the sun yesterday, as it’s back to rain today. But getting work done, and lake-gazing, so no complaints.

  11. bees
    Even when painted different colors a bee might still get confused and try to enter the wrong hive. If the confused bee is ladened down with pollen or nectar, the hive’s guard bees will say, “come on in, great to see ya”, but if no food, the guard bees will likely drive off the wayward bee. Did you know that the honey bee is not indigenous to North America? Early settlers brought hives over from Europe on their ships! The social structure and life of the honey bee is fascinating. The female bees, the majority of the population, do all of the work from raising the brood to foraging for food. The male bees (drones) essentially don’t do anything except hang around and mate with the queen if the opportunity arises. Incredibly the queen mates only once in her life. Once fertilized she can lay thousands of eggs over several years. I maintain several hives and can attest that it is indeed a rich and humbling experience…
    John D

  12. Re: bees
    Bees really are amazing! That’s so cool that you keep hives and are learning so much from the bees. I hadn’t known that about shipping the bees over. That must have been some journey! Thanks for writing, and I hope your summer is going well!

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