6.08.2011

Counting Bees


West of Twenty-Third Avenue, the sun hardly knows us. The Richmond district is like a beach town anyway with surfboards in open garages, breezes off the ocean, and no big city entertainment destinations or shopping malls like downtown. If we see the sun in summer, it's because it's after lunch and the fog finally gave up and burned off. We know we'd better get out and enjoy it as the afternoon fog rolls in thick and quickly, so dense it looks like it could push you over. It's a lucky day around here if it's still sunny after four pm. Summer in western San Francisco heats up to sixty degrees if you're lucky, and that's warm, sweater weather around here.

Everybody comes outside when the sun shows up, especially the bees. It looks like La Guardia on the rooftop: bees buzz in for a landing, bees shoot out from the hive, taking off. They're not crashing into each other but they're definitely not in any kind of air traffic controller order, either. 

They fly off straight toward the park, but once freed from the roof stub wall they get blasted by the ocean gust coming straight up Fulton St. The bees roll and spin, get blown east down the street and eventually swoop around and loop back toward the park. I wonder if they warn their sisters? As long as they're bringing in pollen, they should be okay. The rule is seven out of twenty bees need to be coming home to the hive with a paycheck.

Compared to our overachiever Giants' hive, the Slacker bees are almost too calm. It's easy to get worried that they might not be doing what they're supposed to be doing. 

At least it's easy for us, being parents of grown kids. Parents are overly programmed to worry about their kids anyway, especially when it comes to how hard they seem to be working. It's all we can do to not call up our grown-up kids every morning and act like kids ourselves, questioning them as if they're still in high school and they want to borrow the car. We remind each other we're not responsible. We can have a beer, watch the bees and relax. Nobody needs us to do what comes naturally.

So instead of worrying about kids or bees, we sat and had a beer up on the roof. Watching bees gets you into a meditative state familiar to any kid who has ever wasted an hour watching grass grow or ants march. It's amazing how relaxing it is to stare at bugs. Especially when drinking a delicious, dark beer on a rare, sunny day.

We weren't completely without motivation: we counted the little Slackers, just for reassurance. For every twenty bees, we counted ten Slacker bees coming home with pollen: three more than necessary. It didn't matter how often we counted, we clearly mislabeled these industrious ladies.

Not only that, these were creative pollen shoppers. Somewhere in Golden Gate park they were finding more than just the typical dirty yellow colored dinner. On their back legs, these girls carried neon bright yellow pollen, brownish dark orange pollen, purple pollen, blue pollen, and even bright red pollen. Their honey is going to be a work of art.

Pollen color is something we've heard bee people talk about. Honestly, there isn't a lot else to talk about if you want to talk about pollen. This is how we learned bees prefer to collect pollen from the same species of plant, as in only tomatoes or only almonds, until that item is out of stock. Only then will bee shoppers switch to another grocery aisle. Or so bee people say.  

If we had access to a better camera, we'd get better pictures. We'd be artists ourselves. But we aren't, so we'll just have another beer, observe, and enjoy having something to say the next time someone starts talking pollen.