Adventures in Urban Beekeeping, General Sustainability, and Rambling Miscellany
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
A male drone is distinguished from a female worker bee by his bulky stature and big, dumb eyes. Compared to the girl-powered majority, he’s a few crayons short of a pack. He rarely leaves the hive, gets drunk on honey he had no part in cultivating, is all but immobile and almost completely blind. Some suitor.
Around this time of year, when the temperature starts to drop and the trees start blushing, the worker bees begin a thorough decimation as methodical as it is just:
“There is, at first, no sign of menace, although the drone’s worker sisters have grown increasingly testy as the nectar supply tapered off with the end of summer. The drone is, as usual, swaggering across the combs, shoving aside workers who get in his way as he heads toward the capsules of honey. But this time something is wrong. A couple of females block his path. The big fellow is surprised by this unexpected resistance. “What’s going on here?” his manner says. The workers do not yield before him. Then, both females suddenly fall upon the startled drone, pummeling him, biting his fine wings, tearing at his antenna and legs, violating his macho male superiority. The carnage is underway.” –The Queen Must Die, by William Longgood
The carnage is certainly underway in my hives. Drone bodies litter the ground, their googly eyes seeming to implore a desperate “WHY?” in their inertia. The air is crisp, and although the sun still beams down upon the Northeast, the workers know that winter is fast approaching. The drones, bumbling bags of sperm that they are, are no longer of use to the colony. Uselessness in a beehive is a crime punishable by death.
The massacre of the drones marks an important seasonal shift. Bountiful summer has passed, making way for autumn’s last harvest before cold, dead winter stifles out all but the most hardy, adaptable life.
I’ve been mourning the passing of summer, the season that finds me at my happiest and most energetic, in a quiet way. After celebrating the magic of the living seasons, I now turn my attention to fall and impending winter, seasons that embody loss, death, and silence. (Do I sound too morose? Good.)
The sun has begun to sink low in the sky, casting a golden nostalgia upon every surface it touches. The shade, once an ally, has grown tired of being sought after constantly, and begins to welcome wind and dampness to its dark corners, in an attempt to fend off unwanted guests. The worker bees have begun enacting brutal revenge on their lazy brothers. The sun, the shade, the drones… the first to go in a long, long line of loss awaiting us.
Autumn is a season of change. Things are changing. What is most important, now, is to remember each day for what it is. Soon, it will lie beneath soft sheets of frost, and only memory, and love, will keep it warm.