“Reeds on Top”
From the Cottonwood base of this mountain to the very top is a switchback of knee-high steps. Fourteen-hundred feet of climb, dredged with loose rock and thick clay will humble your calves quickly. To get to the top, takes either a ninety minute hike or a bumpy twenty minute drive from Salina Trading Post. Seems as though, many community members are up there with you, but when you’re alone navigating the thick brush, you feel like the only person in the whole world. Our scared mountain is the ankle of a female deity Dzil Yijin, comprised of thick shale beds and notable limestone features. Coal and uranium were extracted from this stratigraphy roughly 20 miles North of our location (as the crow flies).
When navigating miles upon miles, from dense canyon dwellings to thick ponderosa jungles. I always find myself intrigued of the ancients in this part of the world.
We tried capturing a native colony here, but failed. Which is okay, I now know the process to capture, but it can be difficult managing a band of thieves . In the wild, everyday is a struggle to survive and their best defense from predators their attitude towards passerby's'. I've seen multiple bees while scouting the thicket woodlands and each time, they are curious if I am a threat or a snack, ayy. They become little kamikazes' and bump into my head. When a bee bumps into you, chill out, calm down, and walk away like you didn't notice it.
Our attempt to capture a native colony. Only male drone bees visited to eat.
I am joyful when we purchased a package of bees to rehome in our hive boxes, however deep in my heart I remind myself, that these new bees are intruders. Majority of purchased bees are usually from neighboring states with a very different climate compared to our dry heat and lack of forage. Depending on the ecology and humidity, bees experience diseases, viruses, and mites leading to collapse in healthy colonies. The transmission of said diseases derive from drone bees. Drones (male bees) are universally accepted to any bee hive and carry these infestations with them. Much like unvaccinated Rez dogs.
How does this affect our native bees? How resilient are the random bees you see around you? What types of diseases are locally prominent? These questions boggle my mind with concerns of local bee health vs. properly managed, (intruder) bees. The first goal of bee keeping is not achieving honey, but rather optimizing the health of a colony to successful production.
Planet Bee Foundation. “New Research ON Varroa Destructor Mites.” Planet Bee Foundation, Planet Bee Foundation, 9 Nov. 2020, https://www.planetbee.org/planet-bee-blog//new-research-on-varroa-destructor-mites.
For a long time the bees located at my Chapter House have never been checked on. As a community, we collectively know they're buzzing away, but I recognized my hives with the infamous Varroa Mite, imaged above. A colony killer that preys on baby larvae. Varroa Mites look like ticks on a dog but way smaller to see and unrecognizable to an untrained eye. I am concerned for the health of all native bees previously established from migrating colonies in the greater Southwest. Especially here in the Navajo Reservation.
After three years of observation, I've noticed native bees face far more challenges than our introduced bees. Our Chapter House bee colony use to be energetic in collecting pollen. This past June, I've counted 78 bees going into their hive in under one minute. Versus this September, where I only counted 19 in the same minute. I just hope, my bees did not arrive with a colony killer mite. It's devastating losing a hive, even more so if it's a native colony.
One of my biggest goals as a bee keeper is to rehome and provide adequate treatment to local bees. But this itself is a huge undertaking. So if you see any bees out there swarming around looking for a home, please notify us. We will be grateful of your actions and will provide you honey created specifically from them. Afterall, they are not trying to harm you, they are simply trying to survive.