Dear MOTHER: Improving Pollinators

Letters from our readers about family heirlooms, planting potatoes, and getting through these trying times.

| June/July 2020

Photo by Doreen Knapp

Remarkable Rebirth

After reading Editor at Large Hank Will’s “Feral Bees, Take 2” editorial (August/September 2019), I had to share some positive experiences of bee survival in my area. We’ve been having difficulty trying to prevent bee losses. Lots of beekeepers have reported losing at least half of their bee colonies. I’ve lost bees to what I would contribute to colony collapse disorder. Usually when I lose my bees, it’s late in the season, with all bees disappearing from the hives as well as an absence of any honey, brood, or dead bees. The hives are completely empty and void of evidence of any bee activity ever having existed. But last year was different. Late in the season, as I was treating my bees with formic acid, the surplus super on one of the hives was partially full, and later, when I removed the treatment, it was empty, as was the upper story of the bees’ honey stores. I fed them to ensure their survival, but for some reason, they used very little of what I’d given them. So, I figured they were doomed and gave up on them. During the month of February, we had an unusually warm day. As I was at my woodpile splitting, a bee landed on me. I just knew it couldn’t have been one of my bees, but I went to inspect the hive anyway, and I saw activity. I have no idea how they survived with little to no food stores, but for some reason, they wintered through and are doing well. I’ve since added a second surplus super, because the first was almost full of capped honey. Plus, I’ve started a new hive this year, and today I added its first surplus super, since the bees have their upper story full of capped honey.

Two years ago, I had an empty hive with no bees, and one day, I noticed activity at the entrance. I decided to open and inspect it, and I saw that a swarm had taken up residence. That was $130 worth of free bees!  And recently, as I was walking back to the house from the garden, I noticed a swarm of bees just overhead in my apple tree. I quickly put together a hive box and brushed as many into it as I could, and then I left the box on a stepladder. Sometime later, they were all in the box. More free bees! At least that’s a positive experience. I’m always interested in your articles because they’re packed with helpful and interesting information.

Gary Paine
Pomfret Center, Connecticut

A Transformative Tree

I was a 20-year-old college sophomore in 1971, when I suddenly became acutely mentally ill. More specifically, I entered the nightmarish world of full-blown schizophrenia. I was wracked with hallucinatory pain and anguish and unable to think or function. Every waking moment became a living hell; there was no escape from it, day or night. After a couple of months as a couch zombie, my mother, bless her heart, took me to Lexington Gardens, a large nursery and greenhouse. There, I saw a bonsai tree sitting on a bench in the corner. It was a perfect little tree with nice green moss. That tree awakened something in me; it reached into my soul, grabbed me, and said, “Johnny, hold on, you’re still in there.” So, in spite of the cacophony in my head, and the pain and impairment, I forced myself to try to grow a bonsai tree. After several months, and in fits and starts, my illness gradually went into remission, and I was able to pick up the pieces and go on with my life. Fast-forward 49 years, and after helping to run a family business, I’m now retired and have turned my lifelong passion into a small bonsai nursery. Bonsai isn’t just a hobby, it’s an art form, and even a way of life that helped to save mine.

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