Wild Mountain Bees

My family and I returned from a camping trip yesterday. We ventured to the mountains of southern Idaho. To pay homage, to our traditional exploration camping trip, we picked an area on the map and went. We do this at least once a year. Instead of planning, we drive up and down remote roads, exploring, until we find the wild camping spot that is perfect. A place that seems to call to us, a place we can relax, be awed in the beauty of our surroundings and let the kids run wild, the teenagers not worrying about cute boys, and the little men not worrying about the dirt that becomes caked on faces and clothes… a place to just be and feel free. We use our sense of intuition on these jaunts. We usually arrive at camp when the sun is going down. Making me wonder….did we find the perfect spot? Or did we run out of light.

On the way we came across a fork in the road. We stopped and noticed one of the roads was one we once traveled years ago, on one these exploration trips. Interestingly, in the dusk of the evening, the road we had not traveled seemed to be lit up, inviting us to follow and learn its secrets. The road followed a stream. We saw a few campgrounds snuggled up against the stream waiting for someone to visit. Our truck climbed in elevation, tall pines on either side of the road, looking for a place to set up camp. The terrain started to flatten into beautiful mountain meadows. Surprisingly, the meadows were filled with a variety of wildflowers. I didn’t expect such a colorful welcome this time of year. Usually, it is too dry in August to have entire mountaintops filled with wildflowers. This is where we found our temporary home.

The clean air, the pines, the fire, the tent hidden in a patch of trees, the stars, the sunrise and sunset, and the natives were present. We were allowed to share this pristine mountain space with all the usual suspects. Curious squirrels-bravely running in to check us out, a few bunnies-hopping here and there, then running when the boys tried to catch them, a deer-cautiously making its way on its own journey, a mama moose and her baby-on either side of a trail that lead up to a clear, crisp mountain lake, (this encounter was a little scary-never get between a wild mama and her baby), and wild mountain bees.

The bees were adorable. Really! They looked like miniature bumblebees. Happily buzzing from flower to flower, collecting the pollen and returning to their hive. Our camp was up against one of the never-ending mountain meadows. I sat for a while, in the mist of these little magnificent creatures, in the middle of the meadow. I watched them work and marveled at how they paid me no attention. Here I was, a stranger to their meadow, and they continued doing what they do.They must have sensed my curiosity and the fact that I was not there to harm them, just observe. After a while, my son came to me and wanted to know what I was doing. I showed him the little mini-bumblebees. He decided we should follow them, to try and find their hive and their honey. He and I went on our own exploration adventure…..to find the bee hive.

We searched for a good hour. Following random bees to see where they would lead us. They were kind of tricky. In our game of cat and mouse, we found a small grove of trees, surrounded by a dense brush. My son and I were sure the hive was hidden in the thicket. Bees were flying in and out, with a pattern that my son said looks like planes taking off and landing at an airport.The extend of effort that the bees had undertaken, to make their home in a protected sanctuary, made us think about the consequences- to the bees and possibly us- if we continued with our endeavor to try some of their wild honey. We decided it was best to leave the bush and the hive alone. We decided, the bees must of build their hive in that place to protect their precious home from the other natives in the area. If we disturbed their home, they may not be able to rebuild before the winter. We let it be. As we walked back to camp, all we could talk about was how great the honey would have been-the golden treasure, of the wild mountain bees, hidden in a protective thicket.

I am grateful to find bees on that mountain in Idaho. With more than 70% of our natural bee population gone in the US, these Wild Mountain Bees are a rarity, special and extremely important. My hope is that their hive splits, over and over again….replenishing all the mountain meadows. I am grateful that the Aseda co-operative is tending to the Wild Forrest Bees in Ghana, ensuring the bees thrive and survive. We loved this camping spot. It will go on our little map of favorites. We will be back in a year or so. I hope to find our little neighbors still busily buzzing their days away went we return.

Original post August 15, 2014

Photograph by Tricksy Weasel