for the love of lavender

A look into the life of a lavender farming family.

Name:
Location: Yamhill, Oregon, United States

Thursday, July 27, 2006

a bit of a bee problem


We had a bit of a bee problem yesterday. Of course there are always a lot of busy bees buzzing happily around the lavender. Bumblebees and honeybees alike go from flower to flower to flower in a seemingly endless quest. There are often too many bees to count on every plant. The quest of the bees and our own quest to harvest usually are carried off without a hitch. They are much more interested in the heavily fragrant flowers than they are in us.

The delicate dance usually happens like this: We approach a plant and gently rock the plant from below which causes the bees to wonder off to the surrounding flowers, dignity in tact. We can then harvest the lavender plant without interference from the bees. As we move from plant to plant this routine continues, we sway the stems and the bees move on.

Sometimes there are some challenges when we approach the end of a lavender field. As the bees available harvest diminishes along with our own, they become more protective of the few plants that are left. They'll buzz around us and sometimes even make a feeble attempt at a dive. There are just fewer plants for the same number of bees. Still, we rarely get stung. Usually only when we accidentally grab a bee as we are putting our hands around the stems to cut them. When this happens we always honor the bee that gave its life unnecessarily for our gain.

The problems yesterday occurred when a swarm of honeybees invaded the drying shed where we were hanging the morning’s harvest. There are sometimes a few bees in the drying shed but this was something else entirely. Imagine a group of 10 teenagers merrily going about their business of bundling and hanging lavender when all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere - bees, bees and more bees everywhere. Bees buzzing, bees flying, bees hovering, bees diving, bees landing, yes - landing on them.

The intense buzzing was immediately joined by the girls screaming and the boys yelling and all of them jumping, flapping and running. Needless to say, there were casualties. Casualties among the bees and among the kids as almost all of them were stung - some of them multiple times. The bees won. We decided to stop working and let them have their day with the lavender. This morning they were gone - but gone to where? Would they be back? We decided to move to a different drying shed (several miles away) to prevent any further injuries to bees or kids.

We thank the bees for the work they do. For their serenade of busy buzzing which accompanies us on a daily basis. For lavender honey - so sweet. For their beauty and sense of purpose. We can learn a lot from bees. We can learn about how hard work can produce something nourishing and beautiful. About teamwork and about self-sacrifice. Thank you bees. For the love of lavender...
For pictures of bees and lavender see www.flickr.com/photos/accentuous