By Vicki Hertel, Sun Gold Farm
Don’t worry, this is a good thing. The invasion actually consists of eight hives of our neighbor’s honey bees which he loans us every season to help pollinate the squash and cucumbers. They are usually very tame and do a great job in our fields. When we start to see the huge squash blossoms appear on the zucchini, we know it is time to give neighbor Gene a call.
In the cool of the evening he will ready the hives for their short trip down the county road from his farm to our farm. He stacks and straps the hives onto a pallet and we receive the call that they are ready to travel. Early the next morning, just after daybreak, Charlie takes the loader tractor over to pick up the bees.
The weather must be cool so that the bees stay in the hive for the trip. He goes up to them slowly and gently lifts the pallet and heads down the too-bumpy road. A few of the bees will come out of their hive and lose their way, but most of them arrive at their new home on our farm ready to go to work.
Honey bees do most of their work within 100 yards of the hive, so Charlie places them in a central area in the field for the season. It takes a few days for the bees to get their bearings in the new surroundings, but they are anxious to get pollinating!
For too many years we have all taken honey bees too much for granted. I can remember the swarms of “wild” honey bees that came through the farm several times each summer. We would hear the sound of a far away roar which quickly became almost deafening. We knew to hit the ground face down and lay still until the sound ceased.
Such occurences became fewer and fewer because of a condition which has since been called “colony collapse disorder.” No one can tell you with any certainty why our honey bees are disappearing in such huge numbers. Our neighbor, who is an accomplished beekeeper, loses up to 30% of his hives each season. Some say it is a disease, others believe bees are being killed by insecticides, and some folks claim too many micro waves and cell towers are disturbing the the bees homing instincts.
Whatever the cause, it is very serious. Studies are now being conducted nationwide to solve the mystery, and their success cannot come too soon. We rely on bees for pollination of most every fruit and vegetable that we eat. Without them making thousands of trips from hive to blossom each day, farm production will drop drastically. Cross your fingers that scientists find the answer to the disappearing bee problem soon, and the next time you dip into your honey jar, be thankful for the little creatures who flew so many miles to make it for you.
Sun Gold Farm is owned and operated by fifth-generation farmers Vicki and Charlie Hertel, along with their son Chris. The Hertel family currently farms 120 acres in the fertile Tualatin Valley, near Forest Grove. You can find them selling their pesticide-free fruits, vegetables and plant starts at our PSU, King and Shemanski Park Markets and can also sign up for their CSA Harvest Box which includes optional honey and greenhouse shares.