Bee Watch

Marina Marchese

Bee Watch

  • Words Jacqueline Raposo
  • Photographs Marina Marchese
Bee Watch

Bee Watch

Marina Marchese loves watching her bees play amongst the wildflowers that border her southern Connecticut home. There, she raises chickens, grows vegetables, and harvests the honey from her colorful hives. In her honey barn, she bottles honey brought in from other beekeepers, too. As Red Bee Honey, Marina shares not only the sweetness of their collective labor but also her passion for bees and her knowledge about what we can do to keep them healthy.

“I love the small-scale homesteading of having bees, and their contribution to quality food through pollination,” Marina says.

Backyard beekeeping has grown in popularity since Colony Collapse Disorder started making headlines around 2006 when reports started noting colony losses of 30-50% and upwards, and the public panicked. “But that was a problem for commercial beekeepers,” Marina clarifies. “Thousands of hives, driving from farm to farm for pollination — that’s stressful!” As these large-scale companies saw drops in numbers, the public responded by educating themselves on the important role bees play in pollination and stocking up on delicious local honey at the farmer’s market. Some particularly well-intentioned folks took things further and brought hives home.

“Beekeeping has become so popular. People think by getting a hive they’re saving the bees, but it’s not necessarily true. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years — there’s a lot to learn, and I’m still learning,” she promises.

Bee Watch
Bee Watch

Some dangers can’t be anticipated. Some solutions can. “The seasons are shifting,” Marina notes. “We’re having erratically changing temperatures that affect the bees and, even more so, pollinating flowers.” Bees can fly when the air temperature hits above 55°F. So if there are sequences of warm days in the middle of winter, they leave the warmth of their hive and expend energy, only to not find flowering plants that supply them food. In such circumstances, beekeepers need to feed their bees honey or sugar water. In this particularly wet spring, subsequent days of rain washed pollen from flowering plants. Again, beekeepers need to note this and make sure the bees have enough to eat. “Every month and season is a new experience,” she explains. “It’s not hard to keep bees, but it’s hard to do it right.”

In this way, Marina feels education is most important for bee health. With one or several beekeeping clubs in every single state, she encourages potential keepers to find out how beekeeping works in their region. “I get calls from keepers who have never taken a class or read a book, so they’re hurting the bee population,” she worries. “It’s disturbing when they’re asking questions and should have had a mentor. There are a lot of things that go wrong.”

For those who want to help support bee health without jumping fully on the bandwagon, Marina encourages homeowners to pay attention to their environment. Chemicals sprayed on lawns and gardens severely harm bees, so she advises natural lawn care. And flowers seen as weeds are their friends: “Dandelions and other wildflowers are important for bees, especially as they pop up early.” She encourages the planting of flowers and fruit trees so that all pollinating creatures have plenty to feast on throughout the flowering seasons. And despite the hard work and constant danger to bee health, she celebrates their contribution to good food, and the joy they bring her every day.

“I love the backyard garden,” she daydreams. “I love watching the bees. They’re peaceful. They’re docile… They’re so interesting and important.”

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Bee Watch

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