Seeing Bees Again?

Dr. Will Robinson's rabbitbrush swarm.

Dr. Will Robinson’s rabbitbrush swarm.

I’ve kept looking for bees this season. A few weeks ago, while driving my bus on the west end of town, I saw one dart across the windshield. Yes, then I saw another and again another. Wondering where that hive could be and if it was a feral hive, my heart soared.

That is, until I crested the hill and saw a semi-load of bees parked along the right-of-way. The temperature was in the 90’s F and it was mid-day. Bees were flying everywhere. That’s not quite what I expected.

Then I got the latest American Bee Journal. And on page 720, Dr. Will Robinson, a Casper College biology professor, sent some photos of a ” Wyoming Rabbitbrush Swarm”.

He writes:

I thought you might like to see some photos of a swarm I collected recently, so low in a rabbitbrush (Ericameria) brush that it was actually dragging on the ground. I collected it by sliding a grain scoop underneath it and clipping the supporting branches of the bush. It gives you an idea of how strapped for trees swarming bees are here in Wyoming.

Did it come from the bee truck wreck southwest of town? Or from one of the many thousand migratory hives returning from the almonds? No matter the source, it’s just good news.

I have seen a couple of bumble bees and a few more wild bees at home. And I’ve even seen an unusually bright yellow, almost cordovan honeybee on the hollyhocks. But that’s about it. I hope it’s the humble beginning of a natural recovery.

Wasps are still noticeably absent, as are the ants. I’ve had several thriving ant colonies in my backyard for years. One of them lived underneath the patio and had become a nuisance for any lounging there. But no more. The ants are as gone as are the wild bees, and the wasps. Those that remain aren’t thriving.

Could the ants, wild bees, wasps, and surviving feral bees be an infective virus reservoir for kept bees? Could migratory bees be an infective reservoir that will delay or negate any possibility of a natural recovery? Time will tell!

I have confidence that, given time, the natural balance will return.