One year on the farm in Staples, MN my mother bought a book about harvesting honey and not much later several packages arrived containing 3 queens and 3 hives of bees, a honey spinning tank, a smoker (not a person), bee boxes, and bee wax foundation on trays to build honey on. My Dad had planted 5 acres of clover nearby – to guarantee great tasting honey – and then set up the bee boxes in the shade. Somehow, I was the child who got suckered into being her bee assistant. Fearfully I watched as she placed the queens in each hive, and then dumped the hive of bees onto the top of the top of the shelves. Amazingly, the bees crawled down into the boxes to take care of their queen. Coneflowers, because of both the nectar and pollen they produce, are also one of the biggest attractors of bees.
The experiences I had with my mother regarding the bees make me laugh to this day making this fun to paint. One time a huge hive escaped and were buzzing away in a nearby tree. Mom got her book out which instructed us to put shiny pots and pans on a sheet … somehow this was supposed to make the bees go back home. Nothing happened… but guess-who had to run back and forth to the house to get all the pots and pans. Then my mother, who never swore, got a big stick and gently pushed on the hive, with menacing guard bees flying all around them, in the tree hoping they would move. So intent on her effort, she backed into the electric fence behind her and hollered “Oh my goodness” when it zapped her. Then she backed into it again and hollered “For Goodness Sakes” this time realizing it was the fence. I think she was expecting to get stung by a bee not the fence. My Dad came to the rescue and hooked up a chain to the buzzing branch and cut it off the tree. The branch swung down with the hive clinging to it. He then carried the branch over, tapped it gently on the open bee box and the bees all crawled back into it. I‘m lucky a bee didn’t fly in to my mouth as I watched.