Here’s a fun fact about honey: it’s not bee vomit. Apparently, honey comes out of a bee’s mouth so it’s been misconstrued as regurgitation. In reality, after collecting nectar from flowers, a bee stores it in a “honey stomach” which is separate from the stomach used for digestion.

I thought you should know this in case a five-year-old asks. Bee vomit is the kind of thing a five-year-old asks about and it’s good to be prepared.

It’s also good to be grateful for bees. Not only because we love honey and beeswax candles, but because we love food. Three-quarters of the world’s food crops require pollination. Think of what you’ve eaten today and thank a bee.

I would tell you to hug a bee but something tells me bees aren’t the hugging type.

A fact about bees: Their scientific name is anthophila which means flower lover.

But all is not rosy in the bee world. Like a canary in a coal mine, bees are a so-called indicator species. If bees are doing well, it means the ecosystem in which they operate is functioning properly.

Experts, however, say that bee populations are less healthy and abundant than they have been in the past. To raise awareness about our need to protect bees, the United Nations has declared May 20 “World Bee Day”. The day is inspired by the birth date of Anton Jansa of Slovenia (1733-1774), considered the pioneer of modern beekeeping practices.

Field-notes

May is the month when bees get back to business after winter hibernation. They are reproducing and heading out into the world to find the first flowers of spring. One of those flowers is the dandelion.

Oh, the lowly and much maligned dandelion! I have a friend who prides herself on having eradicated every single dandelion from her lawn; yet she has a friend (me) who sits in the midst of a beautiful crop of dandelions that her husband has mowed around, and picks the petals to make dandelion jelly. I don’t use the earliest flowers; I save those first tastes of spring for those who need the sustenance after hibernation.

In her memoir, Unearthed, Toronto author Alexandra Risen declared, “Fairy clocks. Not weeds. Dandelion flowers close at dusk and open in the morning light.”

How wonderful, then, that a week after the world celebrates the bee, the village of Wallace celebrates spring’s bee-utiful flower, all because of a gift Doug Perry, who moved to Wallace in 2001, received ten years ago.

“My son was in Ottawa and as a Christmas present, he gave me a photograph of a dandelion,” Doug explained. “On the back of it, it said he’d purchased it at the dandelion festival in nearby Kemptville.”

In 2008, he took the idea of a festival to the Wallace and Area Development Association (of which he is currently president), and they liked the idea so much, they told him to plan it for the last Saturday of May.

Field-notes2

“We’ve tried various events but the ones that seem to stick are the yard sales and the flea market at the community hall, where organizations like the churches and 4H and Men’s Club set up,” said Doug.

There’s also a community supper and a display of dandelion art created by students from Wallace Elementary School.

For this spring, there’s talk of a community baseball game, and they’re doing the flotilla down the Wallace River again. Last year, only eight canoes took part but Doug said it was a cold day, with the north wind blowing right up the river.

As with everything in Nova Scotia, the level of participation is dictated by the weather – even when it comes to the flower of honour.

“One year, the dandelions were here and gone by the last Saturday in May, and sometimes they’ve been right on,” said Doug.

For those wishing good weather for the 10th annual Wallace Dandelion Festival, here’s a thought from an unknown source: “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a field of weeds or a field of wishes.”

I think you know which field I’m standing in, wishing for an abundance of bees.

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Sara Jewell
Sara Jewell admits that she related to this story of the quilt blocks in a weird way when she wrote about the topic of her Field Notes column. “If my friends sent me a pile of quilt blocks, I’d have no idea what to do with them!” All joking aside, since she has no skills with needles or textiles, Sara truly appreciates the tradition and the creativity of fibre arts, and was delighted to explore them as works of art.