Of all the teamwork at Urban Tree, nothing can beat the workings of a bee. The two resident honeybee colonies of our farm have stayed strong and healthy through the 2012 season, pollinating our crops and gathering nectar which they use to make honey. After the loss of our hive last year, we got two new hives this March in the most unlikely way possible: through the U.S. Postal Service! The bees quickly settled into their new homes at 53rd & Wyalusing, raising thousands of young to prepare to collect the springtime nectar flow.
As the season progressed, the hive was a view into the variety of the urban ecosystem. In the cells of the honeycomb, the bees stored pollen in a range of yellow, orange and red hues. Seasonal flower variation also came through in the honey, with lighter honey in the early summer and darker honey in the fall. Sometimes the bees got defensive and stung the beekeepers intruding in their home. After a particularly swollen eyelid, we decided to invest in a bee suit.
With protective gear on hand, more staff joined the ranks of UTC beekeepers. Ryan helped with the springtime colony installation and Que overcame his fear of bees, leading many successful hive inspections throughout the summer.
The bees, in their highly organized mini-society, have taught us so many lessons about working together towards a common goal. Worker bees perform various jobs, from foraging for nectar to sealing up cracks in the hive to feeding the larvae. But when there is a need for extra hands (or wings) on deck for another job, the bees don’t hesitate to step up. At the height of summer, when the hive overheats, many workers stop what they’re doing to fan their wings at the hive entrance, circulating air.
Teamwork, initiative, diligence and flexibility are all essential characteristics found in our amazing team of farmers, landscapers, chefs, activists, librarians and teachers that keep our collective of gardens buzzing with energy. We left the bees with ample honey stores to survive the winter, and they leave us with much food for thought as we work towards building our own, cohesive, healthy community.
UTC’s Program Director
(Photos by Sue Witte and Robert Berliner)