Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rabbits and Coyotes; Honey Bees in Snow; Long Mountain Too

A visit to my parent's Winterberry Farm in western Massachusetts often turns up interesting wildlife and other nature sightings, sounds, and experiences. My young nieces were also visiting this past weekend and on my walkabouts with them we always find signs of life and death.

On this visit it was a coyote-killed (I think) cottontail rabbit. All that was left were scattered bits of fur.
Eastern cottontails are plentiful there and one day I heard coyotes howling at dawn, so not surprising to find the two in a meet-up that did not end well for one. Rabbit pellets dot the field edge where shrubs provide cover and food. Here are some twigs well-chewed by the local rabbits.
Not far from the rabbit remains, we found a dozen or more honey bees lying still in the snow a few feet from their hives. I've seen this before, and wasn't sure why the bees would leave the hive in mid-winter.
A few of the bees were still moving so Lia (the 11-year-old) suggested we bring a few back to the house to see if they revived. Sure enough as soon as the bees warmed up they were active again. I was the one to trudge back to the collection site and release them; only one flew off, the others lay still again.

After further investigation via the Internet, I concluded that these were cleansing or house cleaning flights by some of the bees. On warmer, sunny days they fly out to defecate or carry out dead bees. This is critical to the health of the hive. Some don't return if the conditions turn cold; those bees clearly sacrifice for the good of the whole hive.

I grew up on this land, roaming about as a kid in the woods, wetlands, fields, and on Long Mountain--the mountain across the road from our house. When I visit now, I still look toward the mountain at dawn. There are many memories in that view, and many new stories to be told.

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