February

That ‘landing board’ was painted white earlier this season. The bees appear to be carrying Mexico City air pollution home to their hive.

Dear blog, It’s been so long it’s hard to know what to say. It’s not just that I’m out of practice writing Blog. More that so much happens I don’t know where to start. With the desert high plains in San Luis Potosí? With city bees tracking black air pollution onto their doorstep and into the hive?

With cultural experiences? I recently joined a Frisbee team called the Krackens, made up mostly high schoolers with some preteens as well, and three of us from the Bee Team at work. We hold practice four times a week, for three hours at a time, with an average of approximately 30% participation per practice, which makes for lively 6-on-6 scrimmage. We’re not part of a league, and I don’t think we play regular tournaments. So then what are we training for? I think we just play to play.

…or more about the bees? Thing is I’m in interview phase, which means meeting with beekeepers all over the country, visiting their hives and sometimes staying in their homes. Lately my job is mostly to listen, and stories are coming in so quick and thick that I feel like I’m not writing writing so much as transcribing day-to-day interactions, and it’s all I can do to keep up with my notes so that sometime, when time slows down, I can straighten out these narrative threads which lately are looking a lot like spaghetti – all tangled, full of tomatoes, and making a mess of my Microsoft Words.

Sunset on the road home from San Luis.

So for now I’ll skip the story and stick with the setting. San Cristóbal in February: The weather is warming, the flowers are out, the boy lizards are doing pushups on the garden walls to impress their lizard girlfriends, and the beehives are breathing once again. They survived – for the most part – that cold spell December, those wintery weeks with temperatures so low the bees couldn’t leave the hive to look for food, and so resorted to cannibalism.

 

That’s a sensationalist way to explain this really smart bee strategy where when food’s not coming in, and the colony’s shrinking resources cannot support its growing population, instead of allowing the larvae to starve, worker bees ‘recycle’ those nutrients. That is, they begin to eat the young.

Africanized bees are not such good winterers as their European counterparts. Their colonies are more nomadic. They hoard less honey and keep a smaller population, and while these traits are well-suited to the tropics, not so much here in cloud-forest San Cristóbal, where on very cold days (40’s Fahrenheit) water collects on the floor of the hive, and everybody’s busy huddling, and they’re all too cold to clean it up. Their sensitivity to cold spells is one of the traits that prevents Africanized bees from spreading too far north in the States.

Lately, though, we’ve got Colorado sun, and the beekeepers here in los Altos are beginning their second harvest of the season. We’re harvesting this weekend, in fact, in a town about an hour and a half away, and I’ll tell you all about it as soon as I have time 😉

Image

Leaf-eater bee. Just kidding. Bees don’t eat leaves.

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