PERU — On what seemed like the first truly nice, warm, sunny day in May this year, Kevin Ward was looking for his queens.
Stuck in their hives for much of a spectacularly miserable spring, the bees at Pappy’s Honey Bee Farm in rural Miami County were mostly out and about that day, leaving Ward’s 30 or so hives thinly populated.
The queens, which Ward breeds for sale, were mostly out taking their virgin flights, in search of drones to mate with, Ward said.
By the end of the day, he said, about 75 percent of the queens would be back at their respective hives, the rest having fallen victim to predators or injury.
Still, Ward managed to find one hive where a queen was present. She didn’t look much bigger or different than any of the other bees present, apart from the fact Ward had placed a spot of non-toxic white paint on her back.
She was a young queen, which meant she hadn’t really started to lay eggs and which also, fortunately, meant there weren’t a host of angry guard bees attacking the bee-suited intruders.
Bees buzzed and moved around and over each other, always with a purpose. New honeycomb was forming. The air smelled fresh.
“It’s just a fascination,” Ward said. “We cannot duplicate the honey. We can’t make pollen into what the bees make it into. It’s good for the soul and good for the bones.”
What the bees do is a grand process that starts afresh each spring, a process of gathering nectar and pollen, breeding, and creating and storing up enough food for the hive to survive through the winter.
Ward’s particular obsession is with the queens.
“Gentle. Hygienic. Mite Resistant. Winter Hardy. Quality Queens,” is the motto on his business card.