Saturday, March 31, 2012

Of Bee Trees and Leeks

I had to stop over at the farm where Gabe is at yesterday and afterward, Tanner and I went out for a hike and got a better look at the bee tree.  Mother Nature finally remembered that it is still March and so the weather was lousy, cold with intermittent sleet and snow.  Because of all the grey, the pictures didn't come out very well, but I got what I could.  I wish I had had something to show the scale of this old Hemlock, but take it from me it is a big tree. 

The bees live in this dead offshoot of the main trunk...

The entrance to the hive is at the center of the conjoined trunks towards the bottom of the photo.  Unfortunately, there were no bees flying because of the cold.  I knocked at the front door, but no one came out to scold me or invite me in. 

If you look close, you can see the bottom of a piece of honeycomb just inside the entrance of the hive.  

It is likely that the honeycombs stretch 10-15 feet up the length of the hollow trunk.  The bees store honey and raise brood in the combs.  A healthy hive generally needs 70-80 pounds of honey to get through a winter.  Bees do not hibernate, rather they form a tight cluster over the combs and vibrate their wings to generate heat.  The bees in the cluster are always moving from the outer, colder layers to the inner warmer regions with the queen always at the center.  When they begin raising new bees in February or March, they keep the center of the cluster at 90 degrees.  It's hard work being a bee.

After visiting with the bees Tanner and I continued on and found another of my favorite signs of Spring, wild leeks (also known as ramps).  These grow in great numbers in wet, rocky areas througout the woods.  I always go out this time of year and collect some of these as they are very delicious, but mostly, I just love how vibrant and green they are.  They make the woods feel so alive and awake.  It's my favorite time of year.