Category Archives: nature

falling all around.

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 beautiful walk in the rain today

discovering

a newly made waterfall

spring flowers in the mud

brilliant green moss

growing on the trees

in the quiet woods.

 

 

“the rain is falling all around,

it falls on field and tree,

Ii rains on the umbrellas here,

and on the ships at sea.”

-robert louis stevenson, a child’s garden of verses

wolfpack.

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This image of GPS tracking of multiple wolves in six different packs around Voyageurs National Park was created in the framework of the Voyageurs Wolf Project.  It is an excellent illustration of how much wolf packs in general avoid each other’s range.

In Voyageurs National Park a typical wolf pack territory is somewhere around 50-70 square miles but that can vary from year to year. So that’s about the size of the areas marked with the different colors. The white line marks the boundary of the national park.

Wolf packs generally avoid being around each other unless they are fighting for food that may be in short supply. When that occurs, they may engage in battles with other packs in order to continue have their claim on a given location as well as the food found within it.

Wolves may need to shift their territory due to human activity as well. When people clear out part of their natural habitat they may have to find a new route to get to their food sources. This can also create conflicts among the various wolf packs due to overstepping their bounds.

“for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

  • rudyard kipling

 

 

,image credit: thomas gable 

sources: voyageurs wolf project, wolfworlds

telling the bees.

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The bee friend –  painting by Hans Thoma

The Custom of Telling the Bees

There was a time when almost every rural British family who kept bees followed a strange tradition. Whenever there was a death in the family, someone had to go out to the hives and tell the bees of the terrible loss that had befallen them. Failing to do so often resulted in further losses such as the bees leaving the hive, or not producing enough honey or even dying. Traditionally, the bees were kept abreast of not only deaths but all important family matters including births, marriages, and long absences due to journeys. If the bees were not told, all sorts of calamities were thought to happen. This peculiar custom is known as “telling the bees”.

Humans have always had a special connection with bees. In medieval Europe, bees were highly prized for their honey and wax. Honey was used as food, to make mead, and as medicine to treat burns, coughs, and other ailments. Beeswax candles burned brighter, longer, and cleaner than other candles. Bees were often kept at monasteries and manor houses, where they were tended with the greatest respect and considered part of the family or community. It was considered rude to quarrel in front of bees.

The practice of telling the bees may have its origins in Celtic mythology that held that bees were the link between our world and the spirit world. So if you had any message that you wished to pass to someone who was dead, all you had to do was tell the bees and they would pass along the message. Telling the bees was widely reported from all around England, and also from many places across Europe. Eventually, the tradition made its way across the Atlantic and into North America.

The typical way to tell the bees was for the head of the household, or “goodwife of the house” to go out to the hives, knock gently to get the attention of the bees, and then softly murmur the solemn news.

Telling the Bees

A widow and her son telling the bees of a death in the family.

Painting by Charles Napier Hemy 

In case of deaths, the beekeeper also wrapped the top of the hive in black. If there was a wedding in the family, the hives were decorated and cake left outside so that the bees could partake in the festivities. Newlyweds introduced themselves to the bees of the house, otherwise their married life was bound to be miserable.

The intimate relationship between bees and their keepers has led to all sorts of folklore. According to one it was bad luck to buy or sell hives, because when you sell one, you sell your luck with your bees. Instead, bees were bartered or given as gifts. If bees flew into a house, a stranger would soon call. If they rested on a roof, good luck was on its way.

But the relationship between bees and humans goes beyond superstition. It’s a fact, that bees help humans survive. 70 of the top 100 crop species that feed 90% of the human population rely on bees for pollination. Without them, these plants would cease to exist and with it all animals that eat those plants. This could have a cascading effect that would ripple up the food chain. Losing a beehive is much worse than losing a supply of honey. The consequences are life threatening. The act of telling the bees emphasizes this deep connection humans share with the insect.