Last fall I decided I absolutely needed spring crocuses in the yard so I could photograph early bees. Bees look great in crocuses—any bee in any crocus. I could imagine the bright yellow stamens glimmering against the purple, white, and yellow petals. I went to town and came home with a large bag, ready to plant.
It was that mental image that kept me going in the cold autumn rain. Each day for a week, I went outside and knelt in oozy mud and shivered when the frigid rain streamed under my collar. Even now, the thought gives me goose bumps.
The first sign of spring
In late January I was rewarded with little green leaves poking from the soil. They were one, then two and three, centimeters high. I imaged early bumble bees coming first and, on warm afternoons, the honey bees would follow.
Then it began to snow. And snow. And snow. The little plants were soon buried under nearly two feet of heavy white crystals. The temperature dropped along with the snow and stayed for the long haul. We rarely have snow in this part of the world, and it usually is gone by the end of the day. But this time, it lasted for all of five weeks. My backyard and garden are still buried, but the crocuses are clear.
Too cold for bees
I never worried about the crocuses, after all, snow is their thing. But bees? Forget that. I figured the crocuses would be long gone before any bee was mad enough to go foraging.
But then yesterday the sun came out. It was still plenty cold, but honey bees were above their hives circling and making a racket. Near the patio, I saw several honey bees frolicking in the sun. I was delighted.
“Six feet to your left!” I coached. Instead one landed in the grass. After a minute, she lifted off again and I tried to shoo her towards the blooms. She buzzed over my head and went in the other direction. After a minute, she flew into the compost bucket. She seemed content and stayed quite a while.
Like herding cats
“Moron!” I said. “You’ve got fresh pollen sparking in the sunshine but you prefer potato peels and coffee grounds?” I moved the bucket into the crocus patch. The bee alighted on the metal handle for a moment and then took off. I chased her in a crazy figure eight until she disappeared into the trees and I tripped over a mound of frozen white. Now who is the moron? I wondered.
I spent all afternoon watching, but no more honey bees, no bumbles, no mining bees. Nevertheless, the crocuses are gorgeous. They are worth the mud, the rain, and the snow. They are worth the time and the money. I reminded myself to be happy about the crocuses and elated I still have some bees. Most important, I reminded myself not to fret if they never cross paths because whatever will be, will bee.
Honey Bee Suite