I asked my landlady for the contact information for the farmer who leases the fields surrounding us. She reacted badly to the request—assuming, for some bizarre reason, that I would say something to him that would jeopardize her long-standing arrangement. She refused to give me his number, but told me where I could find him, half way across the county.
I had no such ulterior motives. I keep bees. He sprays pesticides. Though I have registered my bees with Fieldwatch, many farmers are not aware of it. I merely wanted him to give me a heads up when he plans to spray.
Before I could get contact information, the farmer showed up to prep the soil for corn. My landlady shot out to talk to him, like a bat out of hell, before I could get there. She was waving her arms and pointing at our property, jabbering. I walked out calmly to introduce myself. As soon as I was within earshot, the landlady lowered her voice, finally shutting up as I approached.
“Hi, I’m Alta. My husband and I have the parcel across the street.”
“Hi, I’m Dennis.” He reached out of the tractor cab and shook my hand. I handed him a slip of paper with my contact information.
“Are you putting in seed today?”
“No, just prep. The corn’ll go in tomorrow.”
“Good. If we know beforehand, we can close up the bees and avoid any pesticide issues. I’d appreciate if whenever you spray, or seed, you could give us a call, the night before.”
“Sure, I work with Julius the same way. You know Julius?”
I’ve never met Julius, but all the beekeepers in the area at least know of him. He’s a beekeeping institution and has mentored most everyone who keep bees in this county. “Don’t know him, but I’ve heard a lot about him. Good things.”
“Yeah. He’s a great guy.” He scratched his head. “I get the spray, but why do you need to know when I put in seed?”
“Most seeds, especially corn, are pre-treated with insecticides. Just the dust from those seeds can kill bees.”
“Yeah? I never knew. I’ll have to talk to Julius about that one. You new to bees?”
“It’s our second year—but we lost all our hives over the winter. We just installed our new bees this week.”
He nodded. “Julius lost a bunch, too. What do you think happened?” During this exchange, my landlady just stood slackjawed. I guess it wasn’t what she expected.
I shrugged. “It was a tough year. Bee losses generally for 2015 were forty-four per cent. I know one of our hives had varoa mites. But we also lost our strongest hive. You know, the warm winter is almost tougher on the bees than a cold one. And of course, we’re all struggling with pesticide issues. It’s tough to keep bees home.” I paused, “It’s a critical issue—bees are responsible for a lot of our food production.”
“Well, don’t you worry. Just like me an’ Julius, we can work together.” He smiled. “I like to eat, too.”
So, of course, I left a pint of honey on the seat of his truck. This is how it’s supposed to work.