Friday, July 31, 2009

Under a Ripe Honey Moon

We're almost into August now and well over the halfway point in our western calendar. Here in Vancouver we had a slow start to our growing season, but then with our unusual string of sunny days we've got a bit ahead of ourselves. Some things, like the ash berries on my friend's tree are ripening ahead of schedule. The raspberries are almost finished now and the blackberries are becoming dark and juicy. Ripening is a big theme this month in traditional moon names. The Apache, Mohawk and Passamaquoddy call July the Ripe or Ripening Moon, the Algonquin call it the Ripe Squash Moon, and the Cherokee call it The Ripe Corn Moon. The Cherokee, Abernaki, and Algonquin acknowledge the ripening hay. Ducks are moulting (Cree),the deer are dropping their horns (Kiowa), and thunder and lightning storms ignite forest fires that create the Smoky Moon of the Maidu. The Ponca and Dakota tribes call July the Middle Summer Moon.

As we head into August, summer already feels past its prime. I notice that my task of gathering seeds is going to begin earlier than usual this year, so I'd better get my kit organized. We've been suffering a heat wave that is making most people uncomfortable and somewhat debilitated. When I put on my bee suit and check the bees, the sweat runs don my cheeks like tears and I feel like my feet will melt right into my boots. The honeybees in my back yard have been having little after-dinner snooze parties at the opening of the hive. Drones seem to gather at the left side of the opening and workers in the middle and the right side. Some are guard bees, making sure the hunger-crazed wasps don't enter the hive to rob it. Others I am guessing are worker bees who just need to let their antennae droop for awhile as they escape the heat of the hive.

The bees are still bringing in silver grey pollen I noticed a couple of weeks back. Could this be from the Linden trees now blooming further down the hill from us at Quebec and 21st? There is also neon yellow pollen from the sunflowers in our yard. The hive is also slowly filling up with ripening honey. According to the fantastic beekeeper/blogger Richard Underhill, the bees blow bubbles into the honey to cure it. What fun! I have not been smoking the bees in this hot, dry weather, so what would appear to be gorging behaviour is actually curing behaviour. Please check out Richard Underhill's blog, it's a fantastic glimpse into beekeeping in Arkansas. I wonder how the beekeepers down there cope with working all day in the heat?

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