In June at the public beach on the Chesapeake Bay in the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia on Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore, conservation scientists who specialize in the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals released 12 extremely rare Kemps-Ridley sea turtles into the sea. These turtles had spent the winter at the Virginia Institute of Marine Scince (VIMS) aquarium in Virginia Beach, VA, reviving from their near-death paralysis due to exposure to cold and injuries from power boats, having been rescued from beaches all along the East Coast of the United States. With a world population of only 2,000, the Kemps-Ridley sea turtles represent the hopes of marine conservationists around the world. Hundreds of well-wishers gathered throughout the morning in the bright sunshine and the warm salt waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay to see them off. Children and adults alike were absolutely astonished by the robust health and activity of the turtles as each one was carried by a volunteer down to the water’s edge and carefully dipped into the sea to be released. Off they swam, like birds in flight, flippers pumping in quick rythm. The waders cheered and jumped out of the way to give the turtles room to roam. May they all swim merrily on their way and have lots of babies!
Archive for July, 2010
Like most people, I’ve been to a lot of parades in my life, both large and small, most of them colorful and fun, sprightly, with plenty of loud John Phillip Sousa for good measure ( which I dearly love) , but I had never been to a parade which featured gussied up golf carts until this past 4th of July ! It was part of a 3 day week-end we spent at a friend’s beach home on Bay Avenue in Cape Charles, Virginia together with various family members on various days. We woke up early to take our dogs for a walk before all the hustle and bustle of the set-up preparations for the concession stands, artist’s tents, bouncy houses ,etc. which were going to line the west side of Bay Avenue, the Cape Charles waterfront boulevard. The parade would take place on the east side of the street and we were all lined up on the porch ready to enjoy our 50 yard line views, munching down on ice cold chunks of ruby red watermelon, the official fruit of the 2010 Fourth of July, ( southern style BBQ and potato salad being the official foods of the 2010 Fourth of July.)
First in line , of course, was the Grand Marshall, followed by the Color Guard of the U.S. Coast Guard, Cape Charles Station, looking spiffy and marching ramrod straight. (Guys and gals, we’re proud of you.) Then, of course, the various fire and rescue companies with both new and antique equipment, flags waving broadly, horns honking (actually, horns blasting), drivers and crew smiling and waving back to all the friends, neighbors and visitors lining the street to see the parade. And next, my favorite of the day, the golf cart parade. Uniquely, golf carts are street-legal in Cape Charles, and literally dozens of golf carts of all sizes and persuasions were dressed up in their best finery, each one in its turn proudly stopping in front of the review stand (The Gazebo, of course) for the Mistress of Ceremonies , Trina Veber, to read aloud the particulars of each participant .
Boldly decorated, with smiling owners and passengers, these cute little eco vehicles delighted on-lookers as they paraded on down Bay Avenue, throwing out wrapped hard candies to thrilled youngsters along the way including, by my side (now off the porch onto the sidewalk, the better to take advantage of all the candy action), our two youngest grandsons who smiled from ear to ear as they caught grand prizes of hot cinnamon Jaw Breakers and guaranteed to wreak your teeth little rolls of Sweet Tarts ! What fun they already had and still all the concession stands with cotton candy, cool Italian Ices, grilled sausages with peppers and onions, funnel cakes (my husband’s favorite) , game booths with prizes, bouncy houses shaped like dogs, etc., etc to look forward to for the rest of the afternoon. And at dark, the brilliant colors and booming sounds (which frightened one of our dogs so much she had to be put back in the house) of the annual fireworks show. It was well done as ever ( although we don’t live in Cape Charles we are only 20 minutes away and usually try to attend). Afterwords we lingered on the porch for a while, just enjoying the little hustle bustle of the activities winding down, a relaxing end to a wonderful day.
I’m sure it’s a scientific phenomena and has a long Latin name but I’ve discovered that ever since I went to the formative meeting of the Eastern Shore Beekeeper’s Guild I’m noticing ”bee stuff” everywhere. I’m also sure the ” bee stuff” was there all along — I just wasn’t paying any attention to it. ( Incidentally, one of the great things about living here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is that just about any Northampton County home is less than an hour’s drive to Virginia Beach. This happy circumstance gives us the incomparable lifestyle of residing in a relaxed rural area but with fast, easy access to metropolitan shopping, cultural and culinary amenities.) So when we were at the Virginia Beach Barnes and Noble bookstore last week ( B&N is my home away from home when I visit Virginia Beach for our ” lunch and shop” trip a couple times a month, Home Depot is my husband’s ) I noticed a display unit featuring “Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper”" by Marina Marchese. It’s the story of her career change from advertising to beekeeping and honey marketing – I bought it out of sheer curiosity (definitely after a real estate career spanning decades, it’s a little late for a career change, even if I wanted one ). Browsing the Mystery section (I’m completely addicted to good mystery novels) yielded three novels by Laurie King, Sherlock Holmes reprises, – ”God of the Hive” , “Language of Bees” and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” , all of which I left on the shelf because I prefer my Holmes and Watson straight up from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. More “bee stuff” included a program on PBS last month about Emily Dickinson who apparently wrote nearly 50 poems featuring bees, including one entitled “To Make A Prairie It Takes A Clover and One Bee”, which is surely an optimistic concept. That led me to search Google Scholar tool on Google for detailed info on bee poems, of which, as it turns out, there are so many more than anyone (well, me) would have ever guessed. Whole books have been written about bee imagery in works by Sylvia Plath.
So then I got curious about how many books on beekeeping are listed on Amazon.com . Its advanced search yielded 589 results including available books about bees and beekeeping in such far flung corners of the earth as Russia, Ireland , Great Britain– even one about beekeeping in Cuba. Plus a ”Beekeeping for Dummies”. Who knew ?? From there the obvious next step was, of course, some research on what bees are generally kept for in the first place– HUNY, as Pooh Bear would insist !
283 results on Amazon for cooking with honey, one of the most seemingly interesting being a new book by May Berenbaum, coming out in August, entitled “Honey, I’m Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and Around the World”. I will definitely be buying a copy when it comes out.
Surprisingly, the most interesting things I learned about honey I found perusing www.ScienceDaily.com , a website I love and check out several times each week. First, a vocabulary lesson — I learned that any honey which comes primarily from any one single plant species ( think delicious orange blossom or sourwood honey ) is designated as ”manuka” honey. But the really fascinating articles were about new medical uses of honey. Because so many bacteria have become resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics, apparently doctors are now sometimes turning to honey as a wound dressing because of its strong anti-bacterial properties, so strong that recent laboratory tests showed that honey can kill the MRSA bacteria. (I’m impressed ! ) It seems that in centuries past, honey was routinely applied to wounds to prevent infection (never knew that). Now researchers have discovered that these ancient home remedies have a scientific basis. The strong antibacterial properties in honey derive from a protein, recently isolated and named “defensin-1″, which is the active ingredient which kills bacteria. It seems that bees manufacture defensin-1 as part of their immune system defense and then add it to their honey. Scientists now believe that the isolation of this protein will lead to new treatments for burns and skin infections as well as “medical grade” honeys. So, instead of putting aloe on my next little burn, I think I’ll try some huny instead. And to think that I’m becoming aware of a whole new world of bees and honey because I decided, strictly on the spur of the moment, to attend a little Beekeeper Guild meeting in Nassawadox. As they say, live and learn.
That was the question I hoped to get answered when I decided to attend the formative meeting of the Eastern Shore Beekeepers Guild. Since the announcement for the meeting indicated that it was open to anyone interested in bees in general I decided to attend to see what it was all about. My first surprise as I drove up to the library in Nassawadox, running late as usual, was that the parking lot was already jammed full and both sides of the street were lined with cars but it didn’t occur to me that they were all there for the bee meeting. As it turned out, so many people showed up that the meeting had to be moved outside to a breezy spot under a huge old oak tree, everybody toteing their own little library chair. The organizers were delighted with the unexpected large turnout– more than 40 people took time on a busy Saturday morning to try to discover whether or not they have the makings of a beekeeper. Let’s face it– beekeeping is a pretty unusual hobby.
The speaker was Paul Kist , an experienced beekeeper who manages about 20 hives. Paul brought with him examples of just about everything needed to set up an ameteur apiary. The tall white bee box (think home sweet home for bees) was disassembled, parts shown, explained and re-assembled. A long white beekeeper’s glove, reaching up nearly to the armpit, was passed around for inspection. I was surprised at the soft feel of the billowy synthetic fiber material designed to protect the arm and sewn into the leather glove.
A Q&A session followed which was most informative — who knew that you can receive a shipment of bees through the USPO ?? Apparently when bees are shipped they come packed in a screened box, worker bees just flitting around inside but the queen travels in her own private suite — a little box within the box. (It’s easy for me to envision a scenario in a post office sorting room where the screen rips, bees escape, everyone starts running around , arms waving , bees angry and buzzing, think a Three Stooges bumblebee version version of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” ! ) The Q&A also elicited interesting information on why some of the folks had come to the meeting including several who were hoping for better pollination for their gardens. It’s easy to forget the critical role bees play in food production although it’s not uncommon here to see 10-20 bee boxes along the edges of farm fields during the flowering stage of the various crops grown here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Others folks already had their hives but wanted to learn more about how to solve some beekeeping problems. And several of the folks there were like myself– just trying to explore their “inner beekeeper”. And then, just at the tail end of the meeting, down the road came a parade of about 20 antique tractors, an American flag flying from each, driving north at a fast antique tractor pace. I have no idea from where they mustered or where they were going, but they were a lovely scene of Americana past and a sweet ending to our meeting. So… I’m still not sure whether “to bee or not to bee” but I did learn a lot about what could be an interesting albeit an unusual hobby. And I’ll definitely be attending another meeting.
In my last post on the life QUACK ! ( gotta watch the video) of bees, I had just finished plowing through the first five pages of Amazon. com’s 589 results for the search term “beekeeper” . Then my husband said “Well, what about royal jelly ? And don’t some people use bee pollen products ?
In fact, isn’t your chap stick made by the Burt’s Bees company ?” Well, yes, I seldom wear lipstick but I do use Burt’s Bees chap stick and have for years, despite my Scottish heritage inclination to frown on the price tag of $2.99 for a tiny tube of the stuff. But you should know that it isn’t just any old chap stick, it’s “Beeswax Lip Balm: Soothing, Cooling, Refreshing”. The cooling part is what I love about it, your lips just sort of tingle after you put it on, as if tiny bee wings were sending cool wafts of air towards them…. those bees of Berts’ specialize in lip cooling .
And then yesterday an article on www.ScienceDaily.com caught my eye, entitled “Honey Bee Venom May Help Design New Treatments to Alleviate Muscular Dystrophy, Depression and Dementia.” The gist of the article is that apamin, a toxic protein discovered in bee venom, is helping researchers to develop a new type of channel blocker that could imitate apamin and thus help design new drugs to treat these very serious medical conditions. Together with the development reported earlier of “medical grade honey” to keep open wounds from becoming infected, it’s clear that the honeybee is a truly unique insect.