By CHRISTINE TAILER
I can sit on the front porch and look out across the yard toward the orchard. There is no doubt about it. It has been a good year for clover. You would think that we had planted the yard in clover, but not so.
It has spread beautifully, all on its own, from hillock to hillock, out past the fire circle, past the windmill tower, and into the orchard beyond. It’s whiteness ebbs and flows across the green grass, some places thicker, some places less so, much like the clouds floating across the blue sky overhead.
I used to think that clover was a weed, back when we used to live in the city. Some of our neighbors even paid for the privilege of spraying chemicals across their lawns to keep the clover at bay. I remember the smell of the chemicals, and the prim little signs that read “Keep dogs and children off for 24 hours after application.”
But now, when the clover covers the yard, we actually hesitate to mow at all, for when we sit on the front porch and look out across the clover, we can see our bees gently working the white flower heads. It looks as though there is a bee on almost every flower. At first, I might think that a gentle breeze is blowing across the flowers, but then I realize that they are bobbling not from the wind, but from the movement of the bees that land on them.
And if I walk out into the yard and carefully kneel down, so as not to squish a foraging bee, I can watch as the busy little creatures gather the white clover pollen with their front legs and stuff it into sacks on their hind legs. I can even reach out and actually touch the bees, not because I am anyone special, but because I know that foraging bees will not sting. The bees will only sting when they are defending their hive, because once they have stung, the bees will die.
The bees are not defensive at all while they are out in the field, gathering pollen and nectar. I gently pick one up, pinching her wings lightly between my thumb and forefinger. I turn her over and see that her pollen sacks are filled to overflowing.
I decide to go up to the hives and watch the bees returning with the white clover pollen. I walk slowly through the deep clover covered yard, careful not to step on any bees. By the woods’ edge, I crouch down beside a hive, off to the side, out of the way of the bees’ flight path. They do not even know that I am there.
I look down the line of hives and watch as a steady stream of bees returns to each hive entrance. It looks as though only a few bees are still venturing out. It is getting late in the day. The sun is slipping over the hill behind the cabin.
As I watch the steady flow of bees, it occurs to me that quite a few of them need landing lessons. Perhaps it is because they are so heavily laden with pollen and nectar, that their landing calculations at the hive entrance are a bit off. I see several of them crash land in the grass below. They struggle to take flight back up to the hive. I am tempted to reach out a helping finger and assist, but I know better. The guard bees would see my hand and signal the alarm, and I would surely be stung. So I simply crouch still, and watch.
Then, I hear Greg down by the barn. He has started up the mower. The shadows grow longer across the field and the activity at the hive entrances slows down. I know that most of the bees are now back home, packing their pollen and nectar into their wax comb. I also know it is OK to mow now, to dead head the clover so new flowers will grow, and our bees will be able to gather pollen and nectar all throughout the summer.
My, how our perspective has changed!
Christine Tailer is a columnist for The Highland County Press.