Once you start taking the time to look for honey bees, there’s no telling what you might find. That’s what I discovered on a recent trip to Fort Bragg, California. Of course, as soon as I arrived at the beach, I was instantly captivated by the sight of rolling waves crashing onto the sandy shore, the high rocky cliffs, and the cool salty air. Many people were. As I walked along the shore, I’d often see someone alone facing the great ocean as the waves surged in and out. After journeying to the edge of California, people couldn’t help but take in nature’s great scene of ocean and sky.
However, after writing my book, In the Trees, Honey Bees! I couldn’t help but wonder about honey bees too. Would there be a lot of honey bees on the coast?
I decided to find out.
Rising early one morning and momentarily pulling myself away from the ocean’s grandeur, I saw there were flowers nestled along the cliffs and fields of flowers above the cliffs. Camera in hand, I slowly wandered through narrow trails among the flowers. Would I spot a honey bee going about its business?
Surprisingly, the flowers weren’t abuzz with the bees as I imagined they’d be.
But it was still early. The sun was just rising so the air was still cool.
So I watched and waited as the sun heated the morning air.
And while I waited for the bees, I saw things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
A delicate spider web glistening in the morning light.
Two birds resting in a grassy thicket.
A bold red flower rising to the sky.
All of these things, but no honey bees.
So I kept walking and waiting.
Finally, my search was rewarded.
A bee! But not a honey bee.
A bumble bee.
It was the first of many bees I saw that morning. Interestingly, I saw far more bumble bees than honey bees—and I wondered why. After I did a little research, I discovered that this could be the result of two important factors. One was the fact that the population of honey bees has been dwindling for the past four years. About a third of all honeybee hives have been devastated by CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) where the colony abandons the hive and disappears. Scientists are still investigating the cause of this mysterious and deadly disorder.
Second, perhaps the coastal environment simply suited bumble bees better. While wild honey bee colonies composed of thousands of bees often made their home in tree hollows, small colonies of about fifty bumble bees made their home in small underground burrows. As I looked around the grassy thickets near the shore, I realized there were countless places where bumble bees might nest, but few trees for the honey bees.
It all made sense.
And it was just the sort of observation that could take me on another writing adventure. Hmm . . . How else were bumble bees different from honey bees? On the other hand, the spider web was wonderful too. Maybe I’d write about that.
Suddenly, there were all sorts of possibilities that I might not have considered if I hadn’t been on the trail of a honey bee.
To learn more about Lori Mortensen’s books and new releases, visit her website at www.lorimortensen.com.