The excitement and promise of spring

Spring is coming! There are signs all around here in South Carolina.  But I’m cutting off my computer and finishing this later after that thunderclap out of the blue!

This has been a crazy weather day. My DH has watched the weather all day on the computer and we’ve braced for the worst, but all we’ve gotten is a few stray thunderclaps and some rain. I’d say it was a blessing considering the violent weather that has been all over the Southeast today.

Back to where I was before the thunderclap…

I have been enjoying a number of birds at our feeders on our back deck for a long time. The Pine Siskins have come in droves this year, but I had never heard of them until February. They are not as afraid of us as the other birds. We’ve come in and out the back door and a small number of them stay behind when the rest take off. I’ve been talking to them and getting closer and closer to see if they would fly. Today I held one on my finger two times, possibly the same bird, maybe not.

I checked our bluebird house and found a nest with three eggs. We have a wren house with a nest in it as well. Across the street we have another bluebird house with a few pieces of pine straw placed appropriately for a nest, but I haven’t seen the birds. It looked the same two days ago, so there may not be any current activity there.

The bees are all over our holly bushes again, which means we should have plenty of red berries again next winter.

I’m watching my teeny-tiny flowers (most call them weeds) in my lawn. One in particular I’m watching for is the Sundew. I discovered them about 4 years ago when I tried to photograph them. The tiny flower is on a stem that is long in comparison to the plant so it is hard to get both the flower and the ground-hugging leaves both in focus at the same time. It is also hard to catch them with the buds open. Apparently they are only open a few hours in the morning if it is a sunny day. Now that I’m retired I should be able to catch them open and try again for a good picture. I found out when I looked up the flower in my wildflower book that this plant is carnivorous. It’s leaves and stem are sticky and when insects touch it they stick. Then the leaves wrap themselves around them to digest them.

Isn’t spring great!

Copyright © 2009 by Janice Green

Secret Life of Bees

It occurred to me that some of my readers might enjoy reading about my brush with fame. Now to write my own book that sells as many copies! I wrote the following article in 2005 telling of my experience being interviewed by Sue Monk Kidd as she did her research on beekeeping before writing The Secret Life of Bees. You can read her account of the experience on her own web page under Visit to an Apiary.

Janice Green: Secret Life of Bees has Hemingway touch

By JANICE GREEN
Morning News
Monday, April 4, 2005

My husband, Dave Green, and I were enjoying a quiet evening at home when our lives were pleasantly interrupted with an unexpected phone call.

The lady on the other end of the line said she was Sue Monk Kidd and that she had been contracted to write a novel about three spinster women who were beekeepers in the 1960s.

She said she found our names and phone number on a jar of honey in a gift shop in Charleston and wanted to know if she could visit us and pick our brains about beekeeping.

I was thrilled. I knew this was for real because I had at least heard of her. Her name was familiar from some magazines I had read.

What’s more, I had a deep desire to write books. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything!

When she arrived, we sat in the honeyhouse and we shared everything we could think of about bees and beekeeping.

We discussed what beekeepers do to care for the bees, the process of gathering honey and packing it into jars to sell, what causes one batch of honey to taste different from another, bee products such as pollen and beeswax, and bees in general.

We also dressed Sue in a long-sleeved shirt and put a bee veil on her and let her see inside some bee hives to give her firsthand experience. We also gave her the URLs of our Web pages about beekeeping for information. All in all, it was a great time and one I’ll never forget.

Sue was likeable and seemed highly interested in anything we found to talk about. We even shared bee stories from before either of us became involved with beekeeping.

We later learned that she was a very private person. I once tried to contact her and did a people search on the Internet, but was unsuccessful in getting her address.

When she contacted us three years later to discuss what should be written about us on the acknowledgements page she was happy to learn that we had tried and been unsuccessful.

She was also concerned that we might not want too much information on the acknowledgements page, as too many phone calls could become a nuisance. We have had a few calls, but not so many to make us wish them away.

When “The Secret Life of Bees” was published, we went to several stores before we could find a copy. We finally found one in Charleston where she was featured as a local author.

Within a couple of months we were seeing them everywhere. We pored over the book to see if she had gotten the beekeeping part of the story accurately, and were pleased to see that she was correct right down to a lot of the details. Dave and I had a few extra thrills reading it as we discovered bits and pieces of our past woven into the storyline.

At the time of Kidd’s visit Dave and Janice Green had the largest beekeeping operation in South Carolina. It had been focused primarily on pollination service for area farmers, but had attempted branching out into honey packing and distribution into North and South Carolina – an ill-fated venture, since a flood of cheap imported Chinese honey soon dominated the market and put a lot of honey-producers out of business.

The Greens sold their bees and pollination business three years ago, though Janice keeps a few hives for her own enjoyment. Dave is the editor of The Weekly Observer.

Let us know what you think of this story(Surprise the Florence Morning News by following this link.)

Copyright © 2005 by Janice Green

 

If bees are visiting your holly bushes you are blessed.

Press Release: I wrote this as an article for a local newspaper. Please feel free to use it in its entirety with attribution. No compensation is required; however, please notify me by email concerning where it was published. (queenbjan [at] msn [dot] com)

HEMINGWAY, SC – I love the spring when the flowers are popping out everywhere, the birds are singing, a few butterflies have already hatched out, and the bees are buzzing from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar. This is as it should be.  Unfortunately, some are not happy with this picture.

Honeybee on Holly

Honeybee on Holly

Only yesterday I received a panic call from a lady who knew that my husband and I were (retired) beekeepers. She wanted to know what she could do, because the bees were all over her holly bushes. It wasn’t the first time we had received such a call, and it won’t be the last. Fortunately, this lady hadn’t already resorted to spraying them with Raid before she called – as some others had done.

I explained to the lady that the bees would only be in the holly bushes until they finished blooming. Holly blooms are pale green and so tiny that you have to look closely to notice them. These bees, I explained to the lady, are happy bees. After the long, lean winter season, they are so excited to be finding nectar and pollen that you would probably have to knock them around to get one to sting you. I also explained to the lady that without the bees in her holly, she wouldn’t have holly berries on her bushes in the fall. I hope I successfully put her mind to rest so that she would let the bees “bee” and not try to harm them.

Our declining honeybee population has received a lot of publicity in the past couple of years, so many people are discovering for the first time the importance of our bee population on our food supply. One third of the food we eat is dependant upon pollination by bees, and this has nothing to do with the honey they make.

Sadly, one of the major enemies of the bees, both honeybees and native bees, is man. Pesticides have been used without regard to the regulations written on the labels – and have killed the bees along with the pests they were trying to eradicate. Natural nesting areas are destroyed as homes, shopping malls and industries continue to use up the land. Then there are the totally uninformed who think anything with six or more legs is a pest and must be destroyed. Unfortunately these uninformed bug killers may be depleting the population of an otherwise healthy hive of honeybees owned by a local beekeeper, who is trying to make his garden (as well as his/her neighbors’ gardens) productive. Or even worse, they could be killing off one of the few feral colonies of honeybees still left in the wild, or the native bees and pollinators around them.

But back to the holly bushes and the bees—my husband and I have been enjoying watching not only the bees as they pollinate our holly bushes, but we have also seen how the holly bushes have provided food and protection to hundreds of birds throughout the winter season. We keep birdfeeders on our deck and in our back yard and have been continually entertained year round with the antics of the various birds vying for domination of the food supply. When we walk past the bushes in the yard there is a constant fluttering of wings as birds scurry from one branch to another to get away from us, who they still perceive as a potential enemy even though they regularly see us filling the feeders and fuss at us if we let them go empty.

There are many kinds of holly bushes, and all provide food and shelter for the birds, but our personal preference is for the Dahoon hollies. These bushes are quite dense and their leaves are slightly less prickly than other more decorative varieties. Their blooms provide abundant nectar for the bees and other pollinating insects, and are followed by green berries that turn red in the fall. The birds tend to prefer other fruits and berries over the holly berries, but when winter turns its coldest and other food supplies have become scarce, the holly berries are still there waiting for them, and by spring the birds will have picked them clean.

So if you should notice there are bees all over your holly bushes, or dandelions, or clover, or …, consider yourself blessed. Somewhere there is a hive of bees still carrying out the task it was created to perform—pollinating the food supply for both wildlife and man.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Note: This popular post is on my first blog, QueenBJan’s Weblog. I no longer post on this blog as I combined it with several of my other blogs. For more great posts see Honeycomb Adventures Press, LLC.