176 / 365 – Bees

JACKIE CAMPBELL

We always bought our honey from the Janzens, Dick Janzen. The C-store has sold it for years — it says ‘Prairie Gold’ on the label — but you could always buy it in town. He’s grown up a big operation over the years. When I was young my dad used to drive out to his dad’s farm to get it. Hod Janzen. He had a farm, had cattle, planted wheat and beans. Honey was just something he did on the side, something else to try to bring in a few dollars. Every year he’d move his hives out by fields that were planted in clover. The best clover honey. But I think my dad drove over there mostly because he’d go out behind the barn and have a beer with old Hod. We’d walk around and watch the hives, the bees coming in from across the fields and landing on the side. All the bees clambering in and out of the slit by the lid. We’d dare each other, how close we could stand to it. You could get pretty close. My brother always dared us to get closer. He said, “They won’t bother you, look.” And he’d step right up there. Until one day when four or five went after him, stung him on the face and on his neck. He didn’t play that game any more.

Dick still has the farm, but honey has been his business. Trucks hives all around the county. The label doesn’t say ‘clover honey’ like it did when I was little. I don’t think so many people plant clover nowadays. But it’s still the best honey anywhere, not that kind of honey that comes out of a machine and into little packages, like they have over at the steak house. I don’t understand what he does trucking that all over, but the honey is still good.

But we haven’t seen it in a long time. The last couple times I’ve stopped at the C-store, that part of the shelf has been empty. I asked, “You guys stop carrying this?” That young girl, Dagny I think her name is, she didn’t know anything about it. But Merrilee, the manager, she said they hadn’t been able to get it. He was short.

Then today I hear that he’s been ruined. Something’s happened. He went out to his hives last summer and half his bees were gone. Some dead around the hive, the rest just disappeared. Like they all of a sudden just decided to go somewhere else. Then I guess this summer, it happened again. He’s practically wiped out. Hives out along the fields and nothing in them but a few dead bees. No honey. He wondered if someone was poisoning them, trying to ruin him, but he said there’s no sign of poison on the hives. Where could they have gone to? Nobody’s seen swarms out anywhere, as if the hive got tired of the box and moved somewhere else. They’ve just disappeared.

How can that happen? Bees just walking away. I looked around in my yard this morning. I saw one bee, but that was all. I’m walking around the plants in the garden crazily looking for bees. My son wants to know if we’re going to have to do more gardening. ‘Is that going to be my chore?’ I say, “At the rate we’re going, there aren’t going to be any more gardens.” He has no idea what I’m panicking about.

I need to get a grip. But really, no bees? No honey? And what will we do at the cafe? There’s no way we’re putting out that machine-made stuff in packets. I wonder where they even make that stuff. Probably at a chemical factory in China or somewhere. Seems like everything is made in chemical factories in China now. People will think chemical bees and chemical honey are fine, or at least fine enough. And no one will remember what real honey was once like.

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