Spring Solstice and Bee Trees

Bee friends. Forgive me for being away so long. I’ve been on the road and distracted by many things. As I pondered what to write today, I decided to use an article that came to me from a friend. As you can imagine, I collect random tidbits about bees. Friends and family email me, stuff my hands with bee magazine and newspaper articles and fill my snail mailbox with all sorts of bee related news and trivia. Thank you everyone! I learn all kinds of fascinating things about bees from you, and I like to pass it along in Think Like a Bee.

Now that Spring Equinox is right around the corner—Tuesday, March 20 to be exact— I want to get down to business. It’s time to talk about TREES, the gold star of all Spring bee forage.

Tree New Mexico provides a fabulous compendium on the importance of planting flowering trees, since they provide gobs of nectar food for hungry bees coming out of   winter dormancy. Check with your local Master Gardeners club, County Cooperative Extension or local nursery for best tree varieties in your location, climate and elevation.

According to Tree NM, natives and native cultivars work best “and any tree will need supplemental watering for – at least – the first 2-3 years. Be patient and keep in mind the old adage “Sleep, Creep, Leap.” It well-describes the first 3 years of a newly planted tree.


Image result for bees and trees images


Thanks to Heather Harrell and Les Crowder’s Top-Bar Beekeeping (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) for the following high desert trees—though you in far flung, greener places will also recognize trees below that suit your region:

Fruit Trees – How great is this? Honeybees love the nectar and pollen while they increase fruit set and we get to enjoy the result! Apples, cherries and plums are especially favored by bees. Be advised that ornamental fruit trees are mostly self-pollinating and are therefore less attractive to honeybees while heirloom or native fruits are very attractive.

Willow (Salix sp.) – Many species are New Mexico natives. As early bloomers, willows are very important as a spring source of pollen. Willows have added value for wind and visual screening; basketry material; and some add particular visual interest due to form or bark color.

Image result for desert willow tree images

Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa– Yes, that one! This bane of ranchers produces some of the best light and fragrant honey on the planet and beautiful, hard wood.  As another early source of pollen, the bees really appreciate it. It is a relative of the New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana) and other locust varieties also known to be great bee trees. All are in the pea family, so they fix nitrogen and build soils.

Honey Mesquite

Catalpa (Catalpa sp.– Catalpa trees have very large leaves and have the potential to be large shade trees. While they are great bee trees, they do not typically fare well in the desert Southwest without ongoing supplemental water. And even then they may exhibit defoliation from heat stress.

Image result for catalpa tree image

Linden (Tilia sp.) – Lindens bloom in midsummer, so they are an important nectar bridge during the hottest months and may be an emergency food source if spring blooms are lost to late frosts. Makes wonderful rich honey.

Image result for linden tree image

Bee Bee Tree (Tetradium danielli) – The name says it all. Bees LOVE this tree. Another midsummer bloomer, it is also called the Korean Evodia tree.


Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum) – small white flowers attract bees to this small shrubby maple, winged seeds helicopter to the ground a little later. One cultivar in particular (Hotwings®) with red seeds and red fall foliage was developed for alkaline soils of the Rocky Mountain west.

Tatarian Maple

Japanese Pagoda (Sophora japonica) – Japanese Pagoda trees are especially valuable to honeybees in mid to late summer when little else is blooming. Profuse white blossoms make it an attractive tree for the home landscape as well.

Other trees – Les mentions tulip poplars and ash trees as important additional forage trees for bees….

Image result for tulip poplar images

Happy Spring tree planting!


Good bee news (for once)

PARIS (Reuters) – A French court suspended on Friday the license for two pesticides made by Dow Chemical, citing uncertainty over environmental risks including their effects on bees.

Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.?

In another amazing citizen triumph, the Australians demanded the end to neonicotinoids, a major bee killing chemical used in agriculture and found in many over the counter insecticides at your local plant nurseries.


Research suggests neonicotinoids impair bees’ ability to remember how to return to the colony. Photo: Getty

 “Having a beautiful garden is a luxury. Bees are not. They are essential”, stated Dr. Katja Hogendoorn of Adelaida, Australia, who researches behavioral ecology and evolution of native bees. “There is no doubt that pesticides often kill bees”.

Research in recent years has found that even small amounts of this ingredient [neonicotinoids] can be harmful to bees, shutting down their brains.

The chemicals impaired bees’ ability to remember how to return to the colony and to connect the scent of a flower to a food reward (pollen).

Other research has suggested exposure to neonicotinoids causes lower reproductive success and leads to bees dying sooner than they otherwise would.



These days I am more concerned than ever about chemicals and the effects they have on all life forms, including humans. In an era where the EPA is quietly being rendered impotent, it is time for citizens to become informed and demand healthy alternatives. As blocks of consumers, we have incredible clout. Some safe alternatives to pests include bio-solutions of beneficial insects, soaps, bt, sulphur and oils. Research it. Boycott chemicals.

It’s time to evolve as human beings—to a safe, chemical free world—even as Dow, Bayer and Monsanto sell our earth out for profiteering and their bottom lines.

We are all one in the web of life.







As spring encroaches in fits and starts, it’s time to think of ways to boost your pollinator habitat.

One thing that’s not so easy to do here in the southwest because of the lack of water, is grow wildflowers. But if you are able to keep one little patch watered, the honey is amazing, and bees love native wildflowers. Check the packet to make sure they are New Mexico drought resistant.

If you live in the Midwest or big Ag areas, hand the article below to farmer Joe or your neighbor. You know, the ones who insist on spraying his/her crops or backyard with neonicotinoids or using systemically treated pest resistant plants. Sad reality: those systemically treated plants also kill the good guys, our pollinators. Over time, they sicken bugs and humans alike.

Our British fellows across the Pond are leading the way— not only to increase pollinator habitat—but also to encourage beneficial bugs that eat the nasty devourers of crops. The hope is to STOP using neonicotinoids, the worst class of insecticides for pollinators. (Click on this link to find all the common trade names at your local nursery with such misleading names as Calypso, Prosper, Gaucho, Capstar…)

Here’s the story.

Lining the perimeter of fields with pretty-as-can-be floral borders is a proven way to attract ground beetles, hoverflies and parasitic wasps — not the most lovable-sounding collection of arthropods, to be sure. However, these predatory insects do a solid job of keeping real pests such as aphids in check and, as a result, can help to lower a farm’s reliance on pesticides and increase crop yields. (Added bonus: they attract bees.)

But according to a recent report from the Guardian, ringing fields with wildflowers isn’t quite as effective as it could be considering that the beneficial bugs are only eliminating destructive pests on the outskirts of fields and not toward the center, where there’s an even greater abundance of crop-damaging free meals for the taking. After all, why would a perfectly content bug travel out of its way for an tasty aphid snack when it doesn’t really have to?

“If you imagine the size of a [ground beetle], it’s a bloody long walk to the middle of a field,” explains Richard Pywell of England’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)…And so, Pywell and his colleagues have launched a literal field study that’s more or less a no-brainer when it comes to broadening the range of pest-munching predatory insects: extending the rows of wildflowers inside the fields, in lieu of simply limiting bug-attracting blooms to the periphery. The brightly colored floral strips planted as part of a five-year test-run at 15 farms across eastern and southern England are only six meters (a little under 20 feet) wide. The strips take up a mere smidge — roughly 2 percent — of valuable cropland when spaced about 100 meters (328 part), a distance that allows for pest-eradicating insects to better infiltrate the fields and do what they do best.

( @CEHScienceNews)

 Bon apetit beneficials!



Bee Lament

Half of my bees are lost. Dead. It’s the national average these days. 50% losses after the winter. Mites? Chemicals? Lack of food/habitat?

Likely all of those things. As Mark Winston, 40 year bee researcher and professor of biology at Simone Fraser University, wrote in Beetime..

We are prone to accept death by a thousand little cuts, in which one degraded aspect of our environment or health becomes familiar and accepted as … Sooner or later, though, there is that thousandth cut, insignificant on its own but deadly in the context of many other cuts.

Mark Winston, Beetime: Lessons from the Hive(Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014)81

Today as I grieve my bee losses, I am aware that I live in a society that is cutting itself to death—bees being only the canary in the mine. Our culture of chemicals, poisoned food, toxic politics, gun violence, overpopulation, destruction of our air, land and water, an economic of endless growth, fossil fuel addiction, to name a few…are all contributing to a human world that seems intent on destroying itself.

Somedays I feel the sickness in myself. Acutely. My bees literally feel it.

Do I have hope?

As a glass half full kind of gal, I must also say, half my bees are alive, flying and gathering pollen as Spring approaches! I was overcome with delight when I saw 4 of my hives with the usual buzzbuzz bee life activities.

One thing I took away from Dr. Thomas Seeley’s presentation last weekend on the Hive Mind was the resiliency of honeybees. After years of stalking the wild bee colonies in his local forest of upstate New York, he asked the question, “Why do they persist?

He found out, after years of sampling and observing wild bees that have escaped or swarmed from their domesticated lives with owners like me, that there were two things that allowed them to survive the myriad disasters arrayed against them.

  • Good genes—who they are
  • Good lifestyle–how they live

When they finally leave behind the drudgery and sickness of our industrialized ways of beekeeping, they can find their own rhythm and ways of coping— through natural selection. In studying multiple lineages of queen lines and their genetics, he found that after a huge homogenization, overcrowding, overstressing, over chemicalizing of the European honeybee in this country, they crashed. Bee society had lost their diversity.

Does this sound familiar for our current human dilemma?

Back to bees…The current wild bees living in Seeley’s neighborhood today have changed drastically. In terms of their genetics, their size has changed: “new bees” are smaller and more nimble. Their behavior has changed: they are adaptable and the workers have learned how to kill mites in the uncapped brood cells, before they hatch with these horrors attached to their bodies.

In terms of their lifestyle, they live with much greater distance in their colony spacing, so they don’t readily pass along pathogens and parasites as they do in the intensely crowed bee yards where we keep the hives in close proximity for our convenience. Their nest site is smaller and they have learned to slather they inner hives with propolis, an anti-biotic, antiseptic resin they gather from evergreen trees. In all ways, they are living less crowded, less stressed, less “too big” lives.


If there is one notable message from honeybees, it lies in the power of their collective response to stress, in the way they allocate work, communicate, make decisions, and balance individual activities with their communal imperatives. Our decision either to emulate honeybees by opting for the collective good or to pursue personal interests and individual gain may be the decisive factor in the success or failure of our response to contemporary environmental challenges. (Mark Winston, Beetime: Lessons from the Hive(Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014)17

Sounds like a good recipe for humans.

I end with a lament for the bees and for all of us. It is a prayer for healing. It is attributed to the Ojibway people, the Anishinaabe, who originally stretched from the Great Lakes to Montana.


look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation

Only the human family

Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

We know that we are the ones

Who are divided

And we are the ones

Who must come back together

To walk in the Sacred Way.


Sacred One,

Teach us love, compassion, and honor

That we may heal the earth

and heal each other.

Earth Prayers, ed. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991)95



Hive Mind: Decision-Making Secrets of Bees


The New Mexico Beekeepers Association is offering an amazing opportunity at our Annual meeting this weekend. How we as humans can learn to think like a bee!

The event is entitled: Hive Mind: Decision-Making Secrets of Bees.


Dr. Thomas D. Seeley, will be joining our hive mind here in Albuquerque—to talk about bee communication, the honeybee’s social life and how the bee colony makes decisions together. His research has led him to write a number of books, including, Honeybee Democracy (2010)and Following the Wild Bee(2016).


In recognition of his scientific contributions, he has been honored by an Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished U.S. Scientist Award, awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences—but he writes that his “most important prizes by far are the discoveries that I have made about the inner workings of honey bee colonies.”


We live in a time where it is imperative that we humans learn how to become the “hive mind”—a democratic society that is dedicated to the hive well-being now simply because this will become our future colony.

Time’s up. We can no longer afford to let the drones loll around, sucking the resources out of the community. We can no longer allow our young one’s future to be cannibalized by greed and the destruction of their dreams.

We must learn from our amazing winged relatives. And to do this takes time. We must sit at the feet of the wise ones in the natural world with open hearts, ready to have our minds changed.

Think like a bee. It’s time.

Bee there…


February 2-3rd: Registration at the door begins Friday at 12:00 pm

Admission is $30 membership to the NM Beekeepers Association

Location is the South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway Blvd SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102



Tracking Africanized honeybees

Since I’m too lazy to write an in depth blog today, I will leave you with two very short amazing videos showing a unique collaboration between the natural world and humans. You will see tribal men on the trail to find the honey of Africanized bee hives.

You have to understand, in the western hemisphere we’re taught to destroy such hives. Africanized bees are a danger, we’ve been told. And it’s true. They are a force of nature to be respected, reckoned with and yes, not to be located near communities of people. But, they are here to stay, and currently intermixing with our European bees—making a very resilient strain of bees.

In Africa, they “woo” the bees with smoke and take the combs out bare handed.

Honey guides are amazing birds that provide a rare but mutually beneficial service to humans who want to locate a honeybee hive. In a fascinating exchange of language, you will see how human and bird work together.

How little we know about the natural world and the possibility for collaboration. How little we understand that animals are intelligent and sentient beings. But in these tribes, such mutual cooperation has been going on a loooooong time….

We in the west have so much to learn.




Big thanks to one of my bee teachers, Susan Clair, for these videos…she is currently working with Silver City, NM to pass a Bee City USA pollinator protection resolution.



Bee-come the Hive Mind


In a blog entitled “Elites Don’t Understand Human Nature, But it’s Time They Learned” Joe Brewer , a complexity researcher who specializes in culture design explores the mess we are in as humanity.

He wonders at the fact that our society would allow the powers that be to destroy all that we hold valuable. In a 2016 blog post, Brewer writes:  ( and I’ll tell you, it’s worth reading the whole thing)

Here’s an amazing fact: It’s 2016 and humanity is collectively moving toward a future that nobody wants. We are literally going somewhere that will hurt every single one of us.

I have no clue what a cultural designer does, but his blog about elites, who continue to distance themselves from the rest of us with wealth, policies and politics that divide society and pretty much keep the economic pipelines flowing to the top 1% has alot of truth in it.

I wonder myself, almost every single day. How did we allow this to happen?

Instead of the better angels of our nature, we humans seem to be accelerating quickly to a cliff that we really don’t want to drive off.

Brewer actually has good words for humans.

Each of us is born precariously fragile from a mother’s womb. We would quickly die in those first few years if caregivers were not ever-present to feed us, wipe away our excrement, and protect us from harm. Human beings are deeply social creatures. We arise from the natural world and are profoundly immersed in webs of dependency from the first drawn breathe to the last wavering exhale.

The sciences of human nature tell us much more than this. Not only are we social beings, we are also deeply moral in nature.


Time to take lessons again from the hive mind.  Like bees, we are deeply social creatures. It is in our nature to touch, to care for one another, to communicate, to belong. We need each other. We want to be a part of something bigger than our small selves. Working together for the common good brings great things to pass. It is mutually satisfying. Like bees, we humans are moral by nature in caring for the community, unless of course something goes horribly awry.

So what’s really going on here? Has something gone terribly awry?

Actually, I’m not sure elites in power ARE out of touch with human nature. They know all too well that a fully functional, healthy, whole community will bring about their downfall. It will not put up with their greedy, grabbing, profit driven ways. Splintering the ordinary masses by keeping us sick, impoverished, ignorant and in-fighting is in their best interests for power grabbing. United we stand, divided we fall. Works every time.

So, our work this year, more than ever, is not just to think like a bee but to become the hive mind—working together. Finding ways to connect the dots even across our divides. We cannot waste time over silly, stupid tweets and the ongoing drone of a media feeding frenzy over every single detail of this administration.

We must keep moving.

This year, thanks to the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, we will hear Dr. Tom Seeley speak about this “Hive Mind: Decision Making Secret of the Bees“. He is a bee researcher, particularly interested in their communication styles and communal decision making. He has written two incredibly timely books—–“Honeybee Democracy” (2010) and “Wisdom of the Hive” (1995). All are welcome to come to the events, February 2-3, 2018, at the Broadway cultural Center.


I’ll see you there.


For the New Year…

It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.
(Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886)
The bees and land are resting through these long nights and short days. But it is a restless and troubled sleep. The days often rocket from 20 degrees Farenheit at night to high 50’s during the day. Bees buzz around confused, certain that warm temps signal food somewhere. I hear the sucking sound of the dry soil, desperate to replenish the dormant roots with water.
There is no moisture. My friend tells me that Albuquerque has gone 90 days without any precipitation. In two days we will have broken the record of 91 days without moisture in 1917. New Mexicans are accustomed to living on the razor’s edge of drought. Still, the dryness becomes worrisome. We need a decent snowpack for a fighting chance to survive the fire season next summer. Even if my bees were to survive the wildly swinging temperatures, the parasites and emptying winter honey stores— without proper moisture their prospects for food this year will be greatly diminished.
Meanwhile, the eastern coast is hammered by a “bomb cyclone” and frigid temps.
As the East battles wind chills of -100 degrees, the Midwest has plummeted to single digits. I can’t even imagine the bodies of wild creatures, warm blooded, fleshy and tiny against this arctic blast. They live without the comfort of heated homes to retreat into when the weather grows monstrously unpredictable.
Something is not right. Everywhere we turn there are super storms, fires, droughts. We can no longer be  on the fence about climate change. It looms like a freight train, bearing down on this planet. It seems clear that we have passed  the point of no return. We don’t know what kinds of catastrophic or micro-climate changes are queued up for the new year.
And still. In this new year,  I will continue to bring myself and my heart to all this that I love—the meadows wide, the clover fields where the bee dwells, the beleaguered New Mexico rivers acequias and aquifers, with oil and gas frackers circling like vultures…
What is your heart calling you to do in this new year?

Solstice Dreams


As the New Mexico solstice moon ripened into a sliver this longest night of the year, i dreamt, cozy in my down comforter, next to my beloveds. I was not alone. I slept alongside my bees, suspended in a heated, glowing fist of sleep.


I dreamt of a new year, trembling on the horizon. In the night, I felt the anxiety of the shift we will live to face. It was a visceral sensation, haunting my night dreams. And in the secret dream world as I asked how I could serve this transition, I heard “You will know…”

I do not need to fear. Every being on earth is equipped with what we need for this coming year—including human beings. So, I look to the bees as my teacher. They teach me fortitude. They are the penultimate survivors, locally attuned. Incessantly adaptable no matter what the weather, food situation, or pest ravaging them. Resilient. Animated. Whether their life energy is poured out in the summer food forage for the hive body, or hanging dormant in winter, their tiny bodies radiating heat for the commonwealth.


infrared light showing the heat from the winter bee cluster

Whether they will live through the winter, to see a new Spring, remains to be seen. But the return of the light. Ah. They know it. The queen is sensitive to the light. As daylight begins to creep back once again in this hemisphere, she notes the increase and begins to lay her eggs in anticipation for a new turning. As early as January, the honeycombs will begin to teem with new life, aching, longing for what may come with the Spring.

But meanwhile, we still live in the darkness. A time for rest. Rejuvenation. A time to set your intentions for 2018. To dream your dreams. To seed your imagination and prayers with all that is life affirming.


Wendell Berry always says it better than anyone I know.

I woke this morning feeling solstice in my bones. Oh the swing away from darkling. Swing towards the light. Though hibernation will still feel apt, to move along in grace towards goals both outward and inward….And though the holiday season is monumentally topsy-turvy, I reach for the open spaces of empty pages, to plan, to poem, to story.

May you also find your gaze towards the light, towards the brightening horizon. May your find solstice blessings aplenty.

And while the dark still lasts, be well…

To Know the Dark 

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

We don’t know what the New Year will bring, but I seeded my dreams in that longest night of yesterday….

Think Like a Bee’s sole focus the next few years will be an epic project called the Rio Grande Watershed Story project. We will be collaborating with New Mexico Acequia Association and Ghost Ranch to connect youth, elders, and land based communities of New Mexico—remembering the stories of the land and water of New Mexico.  Documenting through videography, the precious story of agua é vida. Without safeguarding water, this precious living substance, there will be no life. Generations to come must remember and work on the front lines to protect her. It’s about bee life. Critters. Plants. Soil. Humans. All life.  I am passionate about this.

This is the way I will #resist in the New Year. One creative step at a time.


In this waning year, 2017, I invite you to support our work.

click here to make a tax deductible donation on Paypal

Tax deductible checks can be made out to PES, our fiscal agent, and sent c/o PES, P.O. Box 6531, Albuquerque, NM 87197. note“THINK LIKE A BEE” in the memo line.

Have a blessed holidays with those you celebrate, serve and love.


Think Like A Bee is a tax exempt organization in the State of New Mexico

Giving back to the bees

Blessed Holidays All!

As you consider end of the year planning and giving to those things you believe in and want to see continue on the planet and in your ‘hood, please remember the bees!

If you missed our 2017 Summer Pollinator Week swarm funding event, I invite you to consider Think Like a Bee as part of your year end giving. We are truly grateful for all the ways you support this effort of education and advocacy on behalf of pollinators and humans. Bees give us so much. This is an opportunity to give back to that which supports pollinators and future generations who will care for them.

This upcoming year, thanks to a partial JustPax grant, we will have the opportunity to connect Indigenous youth with their elders for interviews—creating the Rio Grande Watershed Story Project. They will examine crucial issues of water, land and colonization here in New Mexico. This project will give youth a chance to sit with their elders and understand the complexity, importance and need to reverence and protect our land and watershed.

…to bring the narratives of those” colonized” who have lived as land based, agricultural people, to the settler communities, who have been part of the colonizing effort, often unwittingly. It is an opportunity to become more aware of who are our “neighbors” , our own history as settlers and the possibility of creating a new narrative for future generations in our watershed. (The Rio Grande Watershed Story Project)

This past year 2017 Think Like a Bee partnered with the City of Albuquerque Open Space to host a pollinator festival.

We celebrated the founding of Burque Bee City USA for our fair city!


We ran a summer farm internship where youth learned life skills such as the ethic of hard work, teamwork, food as medicine, and showing up on time, alongside the daily growing of healthy organic food: soil composition, bee keeping 101, composting, seeds, hoop house growing and irrigation.

We were able to provide them all a summer stipend. Ten more youth without nature deficit. Ten youth who didn’t sit in front of their screens all summer. Ten youth who had an amazing hands on experience and made new friends across cultural boundaries and language.

They attended The Council of All Beings, where they made masks of animals and spoke through the voices of these silent ones to tell us humans something we need to hear for this time. The voices of wolf, sunflower, bear, cat, deer and so many others were profound and from the heart.

We visited Los Poblanos garden, lavender fields and lavender oil processing plant.

Many of the youth overcame their fear of bees to become proficient in basic beekeeping!

We learned about native bees from Lulu Sage and built casitas for them.

Every week the youth went off to market like little piggy wiggy, to meet the public and share their growing knowledge of food.

We had a blowout potluck with parents and siblings, celebrating and graduating our youth with honors  in a special sacred ceremony.


Thanks to my incredible colleagues, who made it possible!

Next year we have high hopes to continue our youth farmer internship, and we look forward to our Rio Grande Watershed Story project which will teach youth media skills as well as immerse them in the stories of our New Mexican elders.

With pollinators continuing to decline and facing a steady struggle for a healthy habitat and eco-system, Think Like A Bee will work on behalf of education and advocacy locally and statewide.

I hope you’ll support our work. Thank you!

click here to make a tax deductible donation on Paypal

Tax deductible checks can be made out to PES and sent c/o PES, P.O. Box 6531, Albuquerque, NM 87197. Please put “THINK LIKE A BEE” in the memo line.

Have a blessed holidays with those you celebrate, serve and love.



Think Like A Bee is a tax exempt organization in the State of New Mexico