Posts Tagged ‘honey bees’

Scandia Honeybee, Scandia, Minnesota, iPhone Shots, August 17th, 2019, photo © 2019 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Liz and I spent a beautiful morning on a St. Croix riverboat tour with the Twin Cities Museum Meetup group. After the captain of the Princess docked the boat, we walked around glacial potholes in Interstate State Park, then drove to the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia for the annual Spelmansstämma (Immigrant Fiddle Festival). When the music was over, we walked around the grounds and I took a close up of this lone honeybee on an end-of-summer pilgrimage. Liz reminded me that it’s National Honeybee Day. I have gratitude for the day and the place in which we live. It is filled with wonder.

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by Ester Johansson Murray

           My country friend
           Comes bearing gifts:
Large, brown eggs with thick shells,
Tactile pleasure to cradle one
        in my palm,
Then, gently poached,
          a pleasure to eat.

         She labeled the jelly jar
        "Honey from our Hives".
I envision green fields of alfalfa
with throaty, blue flowers providing
the amber, viscous sweet;
then, worker bees gather, transport,
store it in hexagonal
wax cells of honey-comb.
Their hive a communal home,
with an insect society so complex
I can't understand it.
         But this I know,
savoring honey is like
partaking of a sacrament.

         Here in town, I watch
the furry, brown and orange
workers fly in from God-knows-where.
They harvest the blossoms,
gather honey,
wallow in pollen,
then, airborne with cargo
they vanish.
         Except, if day fades,
some bed down among
stamens and pistils—
sleep-over guests.


About Ester: Ester Johansson Murray is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and taught at Cody High School for several years. Now in her 90’s, Ester was born and raised in the Cody area, the only child of Swedish immigrants. She is a member of Writers of Wyoming (WOW) and has had three stories published in the WOW Anthology, From the Heart.

Ester has served the Park County Historical Society as Secretary and President. She was recognized by the Wyoming State Historical Society with an award for her three books and several published articles on Wyoming history. Ester is a member of “Westerners International,” an organization that enjoys and studies the culture of the early American Western Frontier. She is generous with her time in researching history for others.

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honeycomb (two), harvested from the bee hives in our orchard,
October 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

It just dawned on me. My late summer, early fall allergies never transpired. They usually start in August and stick with me until the first freeze. But this year, not an itch in my eyes nor a drip from my nose. How did I manage that?

The culprit is ragweed, a ubiquitious plant in the Rio Grande Valley. Could be that there’s less of the noxious weed here, in our new place, than in our old ‘hood. Ragweed grew like mad up and down the road and on the ditchbank behind our former residence, but it’s not exactly absent around these parts. After all, we only moved about two miles away.

I’m beginning to think it must be the honey. For a couple of years now, I’ve been consuming local honey—that is, honey collected from bee hives within about a five-mile radius of our home. The latest blast of honey came directly from the bee hives in our orchard. Dr. Moses, keeper of those hives, pulled out an entire honeycomb and handed it over as a special treat. It lasted exactly ten days. We ate honey by the spoonfuls, and we even ate most of the soft edible beeswax that made up the comb itself.

According to Tom Ogren, author of several books on allergies and how to prevent them, honey contains bits and pieces of pollen from the plants that surround the bee hive. As honey bees zip from plant to plant, they carry with them the pollen from those plants and deposit it into the honeycomb. When we eat that honey, the pollen acts as an immune booster, especially when taken in small amounts consistently over time prior to the onset of the allergy season.

It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect. But this is typically what we see. In honey the allergens are delivered in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections. The major difference though is that the honey is a lot easier to take and it is certainly a lot less expensive. I am always surprised that this powerful health benefit of local honey is not more widely understood, as it is simple, easy, and often surprisingly effective.

                                                           ~Tom Ogren

Allergies run in our family. Before he succumbed to a battery of allergy shots taken over many years, Dad always carried with him a sinus inhaler, a small white tube that fit into the nostril. I cringed in church whenever I saw him pull out the tube and then watch it disappear up his nose. That was the height of embarrassment for a kid aged 8-11, before I learned about all the other things my parents did that would eventually embarrass me.

My own allergies made their first appearance when I was 17. I worked as a hostess at a famous restaurant in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. One night my allergies got so bad that I crouched behind the reception counter, sopping up the drips from my nose with a cloth napkin. I couldn’t find a box of tissues, and I was wearing a spaghetti strap dress, else I would have used my sleeve. I could hardly move from behind the counter given that my nose and eyes were running profusely. I finally had to go home.

It’s been a blessing not worrying about allergies this year. Usually I buy over-the-counter Claritin and take a dose on the worst days when my allergies hit. But this year I’m letting the honey do its magic.

I feel like someone who’s stumbled upon the best-kept secret in the world. What could be better than honey as preventitive medicine? It’s relatively inexpensive compared to Claritin and/or allergy shots, plus it tastes fabulous!

I just wish honey worked for the flu, too. Alas, I don’t think it’s that powerful. But, the good news is, I already got my flu shot—a week ago today—and even though it made me feel achy and sick for two days, I’m now ready for the onslaught of germs that always descend on our family when the weather gets cold.

Here’s to clear lungs, drip-free noses, and strong stomachs all winter long! And to the bees!

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Elvis in a Bee Swarm, bees annoint a new queen in the Rio
Grande Valley, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

I know. It’s a stretch.

No way the bee swarm in the above photo is formed in the image of Elvis Presley’s head. The chin is all wrong. Jay Leno with dark sunglasses, maybe, but definitely not Elvis.

Last week a few thousand bees in one of our hives revolted. As I understand it — from expert beekeeper Dr. Moses (pictured below) — the existing hive created a new queen. Of the thousands and thousands of eggs that the old queen laid before winter hibernation, a few were destined to become new queens. From the time they were larva, these special bee princess-pupas were fed a special diet. (It’s not known exactly how the adult bees decide which larva to make into queen bees, but I imagine it’s similar to how each new Dalai Lama is discovered, except for bees.)

Because the hive already had its old queen, the new queen and her followers had to split. So off they flew to one of our apple trees, where Jim noticed them and started jumping up and down wildly. Not really, although he did immediately call me on the cell phone and say, “Get out here, hurry, and bring the camera!”



Jim also called Dr. Moses, a local homeopath who keeps the bee hives on our property. Dr. Moses and his family have one of the oldest natural foods stores in Albuquerque. They sell local honey (great for allergies) and other natural products and pretty much keep a lot of Albuquerqueans feeling healthy.

A good friend of mine goes to Dr. Moses for bee stings to alleviate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. She is a nurse who for years pooh-poohed the suggestion that she try bee sting therapy. Then one day she was riding her mountain bike along a ditch bank in Albuquerque’s north valley and got stung by a bee. By the time she got home from her ride, she felt different. Better. The constant achiness was gone. She’s been a bee venom advocate ever since.

For some people, however, bee stings can be deadly. There are many different kinds of reactions to bee stings, depending on the person and the type of bee (or wasp). Interesting fact: the honey bee can not pull out it’s stinger once it enters the flesh; it must remove the barb by ripping away part of its abdomen and venom sac. The stinging honey bee gives up its life, and so do four out of every thousand people with life-threatening bee allergies — they are so allergic to bee venom that they will die within 15 minutes of being stung.


It took him most of the afternoon, but Dr. Moses managed to get the new queen bee and her male drones and female workers into a new hive. The bees were somewhat accommodating, although in the interest of time he brought out smoke to get them into the box more quickly than they might have gone on their own. Unfortunately, we weren’t on hand to watch this part of the process, although next time plan to be there.

The new queen and her hive were relocated to a property two or so miles from our place. There’s always the risk that the bees will migrate back, which is why they were moved so far away. There’s also the possibility that more queens will emerge from our existing hives.

The bees in our hives are thriving, which isn’t the case with bees everywhere. Dr. Moses is so encouraged that he’s decided to bring several more hives to keep at our property. We’re thrilled, as the bees are essential to the health of our orchards. It’s a good relationship.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for Elvis, Marilyn, or anyone else who might mysteriously appear in the pulsing, humming blobs that are bee swarms. In the mean time, let me know who or what you see in our first bee swarm of the season.

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