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June 3, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: Honeybee Tales

Pat Kite's Garden: Honeybee Tales

By Pat Kite

Bruce and Sharon of Fremont remind us how "lucky we are to see even a few bees in our yards and gardens." Rather than hose drowning these beleaguered beneficial insects, try finding a beekeeper to come get them. I checked the yellow pages under Bee Control &Removal Services, but this is a mixed bag. Better luck checking out Beekeepers on the Internet. There are about 150,000 beekeepers in the United States. North Dakota is the major honey-producing state. California comes in second largest. Total crop pollination worth in the USA is $10 billion dollars! The Back Yard Beekeepers Association offers ample detail at www.backyardbees.com.

Closer to home is the Santa Clara www.beeguild.org and in San Francisco www.sfbee.org. If you want simply oodles of educational information, check out the National Honey Board at www.honey.com. Let's have some number fun. It takes more than 500 bees to make a single pound of honey. To gather even this much, the bees must visit more than two million flowers. Do you hear them buzzing? A honeybee's wings move 11,400 times per minute, buzzzz.

There are many ancient stories about how bees came to be. An early Egyptian myth tells that bees developed from the tears of the sun god. A German folktale tells that bees were created to provide wax for church candles. And from Australia comes the tale of two ancient tribes that lived together. One tribe worked very hard to save food, including honey. The other tribe was quite lazy. After many years, the hardworking tribe was somehow transformed into bees. The lazy folk? They became flies, finding food in garbage.

But my favorite tale is called "Tell the bees." It traveled to North American with our early European immigrants, and is still heard in some rural areas today. If something happened in a home, people had to go to a local beehive and whisper the incident to the bees within. If they didn't, the bees might die, or just stop making honey. Bees were told of births, deaths, the start of various projects and weddings. The hive might even be offered a piece of wedding cake or other treat.

How did this bee-message originate? No one is quite certain, but possibly it springs from a very early myth. This myth said that bees carried messages to the gods. In my cluttered garden, I put in lots of lavender to encourage bees. I have some honeybees and some bumblebees. I tell the bees lots of things, including "stay around, friend."

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