Disappearing Bees

Personal memory by Isolde Finney

2011Missouri, USA

When I was a child I acted as my fathers "little assistant" in tending to his beehives. The most we every had was three brood boxes, and it was just a hobby, but it was a love of his and quickly grew to be one of mine as well. I have quite the affinity for bees now, even going so far as to tattoo one on myself. On our small rented farm in Iowa, I used to sit right in front of the hive, sometimes laying on my stomach to get a closer look with the bravery of an unworried child. Watching the comings and goings of the bees was endlessly fascinating to me, and I must credit this childhood curiosity with my interest in insects and ecology today. A few years after that, after relocating to mid-Missouri, my father purchased beehives again. On the day that the colony arrived in the mail I invited all my friends over to come see this swarm in their little mesh box. How thrilling to share this little childhood passion of mine with my friends! That winter that colony died. Disappointed, but not deterred, my father said he probably set the hive up a little late in the year and they weren't able to establish a large enough food supply to make it through the winter. The next year we got another bee package. Those ones died too. As did the ones after that, as well as the fourth and final colony. I remember so clearly, the dismay I felt when my dad told me he was selling his brood boxes. What I also remember is hearing a story on NPR the summer of the second bee attempt about the rapidly and mysteriously declining bee population across the country. I think that in his own way, my dad was trying to help the bees out in their time of need. Also that summer, I noticed how much our neighbors sprayed their lawn with weedkiller. I decided I didn't like those neighbors very much after that.