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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Unwitting Beekeeper

Gardens are full of surprises. Sometimes you’re surprised to discover that a hungry someone has chomped through the leaves of your plants during the night. Other times a flower has opened earlier than you expected. Sometimes tulips change colors. So I shouldn’t be surprised by the surprises. But I still am.

Today’s surprise happened at the community garden. Apparently bees like my garden bed. (Bees have excellent taste, in case you haven’t heard.) Hundreds of bees. Actually, they seem to like my trellis, the one that is holding up a small but complex network of sugar snap pea vines, twisted and knotted around one another like pale green macramĂ©. I didn’t see the bees myself (and maybe that’s a good thing because I’m easily startled—I’m scared of my own shadow!). But someone from the garden emailed a photo so I am able to share this bee convention with you.

I love that the bees (social creatures by nature) landed in our community garden, a place created by many hands all working together. Just as bees labor together, we gardeners were team players last summer, building the beds together, taking turns shoveling dirt into the beds, sharing seeds, tools and advice. Bees do sting, that’s true, and so there is a more threatening edge to them than there is with more docile insects like butterflies and ladybugs. But bees and humans have a long history as friends. There’s the honey-making exchange, of course. But the relationship dates back to Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, when bees were believed to be sacred. The Mycenaean culture designed their tombs with a dome, referencing the shape of beehives. Certain cultures see bees as messengers of the gods. Bees also symbolize industry, creativity, eloquence, wisdom and regal power.

So thank you, bees. Thanks for surprising us at the garden. Thanks for making honey and for pollinating our gardens. You do a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and we’re grateful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to fly!

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