03.05.17  A Trip to Southern Arizona

1:10 PM   I recently returned from a brief trip to southern Arizona, where I visited Saguaro National Park, near Tucson. This is the Sonoran Desert rangeland, land that the Tohono O'Odham Nation (Eng. trans. "desert people") have long lived in. It is early spring there, with mild days and cool nights. The earliest of the ocotillo cacti (Fouquieria splendens) are blooming, readying the way for the northern migration of hummingbirds. Fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), sand verbena (Abronia villosa), Mexican poppy (Eschscholtzia mexicana), apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) and brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) are also in bloom, attracting a good number of honeybees and flies. Still too dry for the fuchsia-pink owl clover (Castilleja exsertsa) of the cattle rangelands that Arizona treatment-free beekeeper Dee Lusby's colonies feast on in April.

04.19.17  Unpacking Yards

9:31 PM   Red maple and cherry are in bloom, and with that and temperatures in the 80s this weekend, the honeybees are on the move collecting pollen and expanding their brood nests. Overall survival this year has been the lowest ever for the operation, hovering at just over 30%. By and large, commercial beekeepers in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York are reporting heavy losses as well, no doubt spurred on in part by a droughty summer plus the usual litany of causes: mites, nosema, high virus counts, too much corn, too many pesticides and herbicides, not enough flowering cover crops and overdevelopment leading to lowered bee forage and habitat loss.