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Addicted to Bugs

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2013 January Issue Newsletter

By Stephanie Elson & Emile Bruneau

Addicted to Bugs

Aspiring beekeepers, watch out! Bees can be a ‘gateway bug’ leading to a serious bug addiction.
We set up our first bee hive in our backyard four years ago, and spent much of that first summer squatting by the hive, watching the bees fly in and out. One day, as we were spectating at the side of the hive, we noticed a big, hairy spider hanging out suspiciously near the hive entrance. All of a sudden, as we were watching, the spider made a spectacular leap through the air, pouncing on a bee at the hive entrance! It grabbed the bee and held it in front of its body as a shield, and then slowly inched its way backwards and then off the base of the hive.
Astounded and fascinated, we immediately went out and
bought an insect field guide. We were able to identify the
spider pretty quickly: the Daring Jumping Spider. But poking
around the insect guide created all sorts of new discoveries,
including the Rabid Wolf Spider, Flesh Flies, Hummingbird
Moths, and more. Each insect description seemingly sounding
more like science fiction, even though it was all science fact!
Since that fateful summer, our love affair with bees and other
bugs has flourished -- along with our urban apiary.
This summer, we will be the caretakers of six hives -- three
in our backyard, and two additional hives on other people’s
property in Jamaica Plain. We even have a plexiglass hive on
the wall of our living room that we jokingly call our ‘TV.‘
Using the products of these hives, we run The Benevolent
Bee-- you can purchase our small- batch, handcrafted
creations at a number of places: on our website, in Harvard
Square at the honey and bee themed retail store, Follow
the Honey, and at the Egleston Square farmers market in
Jamaica Plain.
Bees are remarkable and astonishing creatures – but
they cannot claim these adjectives all to themselves. We
became fascinated by bees because they are so complex
and compelling (and cute), but also, simply because we paid
attention. We learned about bees, we observed them; we
studied the way the act in the world and we watched the
world acting upon them. Now, bees are teaching us to open
our eyes in the same way to the rest of the insect world – and
we’re just as overwhelmed by every little buzzer, creeper and
crawler that we encounter.
It turns out that bees are a gateway bug, and we’re now
thoroughly addicted. Aspiring beekeepers, be warned of the slippery slope! What starts as one backyard hive can very quickly turn into a life raising caterpillars in Ball jars, scrutinizing spiders, and befriending beetles.
Stephanie and Emile are owners of The Benevolent
Bee. They are also co-founders of the Boston
Beekeepers Club, which organizes the yearly bike
tour of urban apiaries, the Boston Tour de Hives.
When they’re not in the yard working with the bees or
in the kitchen melting wax, they can be found playing
with their 1-year old daughter, Clara Madrone,
or behind their desks – Stephanie is the Project
Director of Mass Audubon’s Shaping the Future
of Your Community Program, an outreach and
assistance program that helps community leaders
understand, adopt and implement tools for smart
growth and sustainable development; Emile works
as a postdoctoral fellow in the Brain and Cognitive
Sciences Department at MIT doing research on
social cognition and conflict resolution.
NOFA/Mass is excited to partner with The
Benevolent Bee in an upcoming workshop.

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