apiary creatures miscellaneous musings

Where the wild things are

Now that I’ve had a couple of days to recoup, the bee yard is looking better. As a matter of fact, yesterday I was reminded of one of the reasons I really like beekeeping: it gets me outside. And because of where my hives are, I’m forced into the woods where the wild things are.

On the way to the apiary, I follow a path that takes me past an old cabin. We spent years restoring what was once just a heap, and now it’s pretty cool. It’s nestled among maples and cedars and you can’t see it once you get about fifty feet away.

But as I walked past it yesterday, I saw something I’d never seen before—porcupine quills stuck in the deck. I knew porcupines lived around here, but in over sixteen years, I’d never seen one or even evidence of one. Until now.

The adjacent state forest is home to lots of critters. On my treks to the beehives I’ve seen raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, grey wolves, foxes, coyotes, salmon, frogs, salamanders, lizards, wild turkeys, and bats. And although I haven’t seen elk, black bear, or cougar I know they live there, hidden among the trees.

Surprisingly, the scariest creatures are the quail. I often accidentally flush out a bevy as I walk, and the flapping, flailing frenzy as they take to the air always scares me half to death—even when I’m expecting them. The most mysterious denizens of the forest are the Pacific salmon. They spawn in a little stream that, in some places, is narrower than they are long. One carcass I measured last fall was 28 inches tip to tail. Like the quail, I always hear the salmon before I see them—they splash and thrash as they ascend the rocky creek bed, and then spend hours resting in small pools before continuing on.

I’m sure I wouldn’t see all these wild things if it wasn’t for the bees. It’s usually just when I don’t want to go out there—but I feel I must check one thing or another—that I run into something unusual. That, all by itself, makes beekeeping worth the struggle.


Porcupine quills in cabin deck.

More quills on the ground.

Pacific salmon resting in a small pool. Photos by the author.


  • Seems like a wonderful place to care for bees. I’m originally from Nova Scotia and used to live in the country where grouse are plentiful. They hold their ground until you’re practically stepping on them. Not a day went by when I didn’t run into some wild critter.

    “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
    It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

    — Walt Whitman

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