Bees, Please

Open Hands Potluck & Tour

Saturday, in what must be considered one of the hippiest things I’ve ever done, we went to a potluck dinner for members of our organic, community-supported agriculture farm, Open Hands, just outside Northfield. We are – thanks to Shannon’s bottomless industriousness, creativity, and plain old hard work, eating a ridiculous amount of fresh Open Hands food this summer, so it was fun to use the potluck to sample a lot of great food, to see who else belongs to the farm, and to get a tour of the farm’s five or so acres.

While Ben and Erin – the proprietors of the farm – did an excellent job showing about twenty of us around the property, I was most struck by the bees that they’d rented to pollinate the fields this summer. I am fascinated by bees, but I’ve never visited an apiary or even really read much about them (excepting Jay Hosler’s excellent Clan Apis graphic novel and current coverage of colony collapse disorder), so it was a treat to actually go right up to the multicolored hive boxes
Open Hands Potluck & Tour

and see the bees up close, both as they came and went from the hives
Open Hands Potluck & Tour

and as they wandered singly over the boxes.
Open Hands Potluck & Tour

It was transfixing to crouch next to the boxes (right near the cluster of entering and exiting workers shown above). My first impression was visual: hundreds of bees were zooming everywhere around me, individually too fast to track but collectively present like a living cloud. My second impression was auditory: a gentle hummy buzz emanating from the hives and ambient in the air, building and fading as bees flew around. My third impression was tactile: the tickley feeling of a dozen or so bees landing on me – bare arms and legs, face, hair – before realizing their mistakes and heading off again. Far from being scary or even unpleasant, having bees brushing against me felt almost exactly like walking through a thicket. My fourth impression was olfactory: a very subtle hint of baked treats, which I only gradually realized was the smell of the honey in the hives. Thankfully, I never had the fifth impression of tasting a bee. Equally thankfully, I have had the luck of eating pounds and pounds of food they’ve helped create.

One thought on “Bees, Please”

  1. You have got to follow Birdchick’s blog ( She keeps bees at Neil Gaiman’s farm in western Wisconsin.

    In the summer, her posts are probably 50% birds and 50% bees. The bee stuff is fascinating. She does a nice job of explaining what she does with them, what the bees do, the different types of bees, how the queen works, etc. She also had at least one hive die this last winter and she posted lots of pictures showing what happened. The bees also show up in the occasional video.

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