My son and I have been keeping bees on the back of my Mill Valley property for a couple of years. (He suggested that I needed to do something in my life other than writing, which was becoming somewhat obsessive.)
He had learned beekeeping back in northeast Ohio when he was twelve years old. He wanted a place close to his home in San Francisco where he could indulge his continuing interest in bees. My backyard was perfect, not only because I have space here in Mill Valley, but because my garden is full of flowers that honeybees like and none of the poisons that are bad for them. We had a couple of good years, producing about 50 pounds of honey the first and about 30 pounds the second.
But we lost the colonies over the winter, perhaps for the same reason or reasons that are causing a worldwide disappearance of honeybee populations, known as Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s thought to be caused by a combination of agricultural chemicals and one or more mites. Whatever the case, a lot of research is going forward, and the European Community has halted use of the most suspect chemical for a few years while they take stock.
This year we have two large and thriving colonies, and if all goes well, when we open up the hives in October we will harvest even more than in the first year. I read about beekeeping, but I don’t write about it. In the operation that my son set up, I am the extra pair of hands and sometimes the photographer. Often an emailed shot of the entrance to the hive, taken on a sunny morning, can tell him whether or not he needs to make a trip out from the city to feed or otherwise inspect the hives.
These hives have been doing quite well since establishing them early this spring. Now let’s hope for lots of honey!