In the Garden: Abuzz in Basalt

Anna NaeserAspen, CO Colorado

Do you want to see the bees? my husband Gerry asked. What a question! I had been aware of a colony of honeybees in the steeple of the house that used to be a church next door for a while. I used to think there were bats living in the belfry. Now, however, there were honeybees.Across the street from the steeple in Eds yard, just feet from driveway and road, and inches above the ground, clustered in an old lilac bush, there was what Ed called a log of bees a dense squirming mass of bees, maybe 20 inches long by 8 inches in diameter. They were doing something called swarming: induced by overcrowding, about half of a colony of bees, including the queen, splits en masse. A colony of bees has a few males called drones to mate with the queen, who alone is fertile and lays the eggs, while all the others are infertile females, appropriately named worker bees. According to Whitney Cranshaw and Boris Kondratieff, authors of Guide to Colorado Insects, honeybees tend to swarm on sunny afternoons in late spring and settle on a nearby tree limb to wait until scouts find a new home. Meanwhile back at the old hive, a new queen is reared and its business as usual. The neighbors say they have called a beekeeper to collect both the swarm and the old colony and house them in domestic bee hives prefabs for bees.We have many native bees in Colorado that are critical, especially to our native plants, but the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, has naturalized wherever plenty of flowers bloom over a long enough period for an adequate harvest of pollen and nectar to sustain a colony all year. While collecting food, they pollinate the plants so they can make seeds and reproduce. The plants make the energy captured from the sun available to us, allowing us to survive. I think about the glimpse into the lives of the honeybees I and my neighbors were just granted. Great clouds of blossoms decorate the valley it feels like every fruit tree in the valley is blooming at once apples, pears, plums, cherries, serviceberries, chokecherries. Theyre all vibrating with pollinating insects. I think of all the delicious fruit there will be to eat, that is, unless we have a hard, late frost.

Anna Naeser gardens in Basalt with her husband, Gerry, and offers her insights on Tuesdays in The Aspen Times. She welcomes your comments at