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Life as performance art

Life as performance art

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By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

Beekeeping has fascinated me ever since I read my second-favorite pipe-smoking fictional detective left London, moved to the countryside and became a beekeeper in his final years. Sherlock Holmes was convinced that long life and brainpower are enhanced by the fabled Royal Jelly.

Douglas United Church of Christ is offering the wider community a sweet deal May 7 when they host a program on bees and beekeeping. Anne Marie Fauvel, an authority on the subject, will speak from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. All are welcome, free.

My predecessor at the Anglican parish in Alberta, Canada, was a beekeeper who “invited” me to help him one summer. As a new cleric at the curate, that invitation was more a command and I’m glad I took it.

I spent the summer in a canvas suit, gloves and mask, pumping away on the smoker to calm the bees, and lent a hand. At the end of the day we’d run the frames through the centrifugal force extractor to collect the honey. Anything unwanted that remained on the frames was scraped into one of the 55-gallon drums at the back of the rectory.

When my predecessor moved on to his next parish, he took everything but those drums with him. To make a long and labor-intensive story short, I purified the wax and had a rather profitable little side-hustle selling it.

My sister and her husband joined the ranks of beekeepers a few years ago, more as a hobby they could share, than anything. To my surprise, I learned there are varieties of bees, even if they all look alike.

They had Italian and Russian ones. My sister said the Italians were mellow, laid back and easier to work with. The Russians were too much like Mr. Putin: aggressive, assertive and not very nice.

We need bees for a lot more than just something sweet to enjoy or dripless candles. They are pollinators and there won’t be much food on the table or flowers in the garden if they don’t keep doing so. Worse, no mead for those of you who enjoy the beverage.

The problem beekeepers face is colony loss. One day a hive is full and hard at work; a few days later, it is decimated. Dead bees on the ground, confused and bewildered bees sitting around and it is game over, at least until next year.

Colony loss has been blamed on everything from Monsanto and “big ag” to the government to cell phone towers. Conspiracy theories abound, but even with a lot of money and quality research, the answer remains a mystery.

A wonderful opportunity awaits anyone who accepts Douglas UCC’s invitation. I doubt we can solve all the problems facing bees, but at least we can take an incremental step in the right direction.

This will be held early enough we can make adjustments to our spring planting. More important, perhaps, we can adjust how we garden and what products we use there.