Deidre Silverman: An Encounter With Bees

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Nature astounds and challenges us all, as Deidre Silverman discovers on a simple walk near her home.

The day was too inviting to be indoors. I pushed my work aside, and took a fast walk to a nearby field. It was a perfect spring afternoon. The field was a lush green from recent, most welcome rains; the sky was cloudless. As I turned into the field, my eye was caught by a dense, black form floating several feet above ground, at the far end of the field. I approached slowly to get a closer look, but even from a safe distance, I could hear them. A swarm of honeybees, moving as one entity, with their queen safely ensconced in their midst, swarming in search of a new nest site.

Over an hour passed. I walked beyond the field, keeping my eye on the swarm and when I returned, the colony had settled into a small nearby tree, but this site was only temporary. Within days, the colony would find a new, more protected site where the queen would begin colonizing the hive by laying as much as 1,500 eggs per day, most of which would develop into female, worker bees. The social structure within a honey-bee nest is complex, with bees constantly grooming each other, maintaining "bonding," which is essential to the colony’s survival.

Experts theorize that honey bees pollinate more than one third of all the foods we eat; and bees also help to balance the ecosystem, yet worldwide their numbers are decreasing rapidly due to climate change, pesticides, herbicides and colony collapse. Environmentalists have sounded a warning alarm for many years: bees are vital and must be protected.

So, if one day you should see a strange, black mass floating above ground, sit back, at a safe distance, and marvel at the amazing nature of the honey bee.

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With a Perspective, I’m Deidre Silverman.

Deidre Silverman lives in San Rafael.