Let The Wind Blow Me Where It May
It was the middle of a freezing cold December night and the roar of the wind literally pulled the Queen from a dead sleep. She sat up with her heart pounding, never having heard the wind so close, so loud, so scary! There was no going back to sleep. With each gust, the Queen became more awake. What about the bees? How will they survive this storm?
Welcome to our new blog where we will focus on what Backyard Bees is all about; things that are good for the environment, the bees, and YOU! She’s finally going for it – ignoring the advice of many to avoid doing a blog. Let’s see where the wind blows us!
Table of Contents
throw/fling/cast caution to the wind
: to stop being careful and do something that is dangerous or that might result in failure
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average wind turbine generates enough electricity in just 46 minutes to power an average U.S. home for one month. That’s a pretty powerful factoid, isn’t it? 46 minutes of work to yield enough power for one MONTH?!
An individual wind turbine has a relatively small physical footprint. Groups of wind turbines, sometimes called wind farms, are located on open land, on mountain ridges, or offshore in lakes or the ocean.
The Queen loves green technology! Wind is a renewable energy source and harvesting the wind has fewer effects on the environment than many other energy sources. The creation of wind farms is mind boggling to me!
An individual wind turbine has a relatively small physical footprint. Groups of wind turbines, sometimes called wind farms, are located on open land, on mountain ridges, or offshore in lakes or the ocean. Wind turbines (pictured below):
- do not release emissions that can pollute the air or water
- do not require water for cooling.
- reduce the amount of electricity generation from fossil fuels, which results in lower total air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
Benefits of the wind aside. These winds were keeping me awake because they were STRONG and LOUD! The wind was gusting at 45-50 miles per hour! I was sure the hive in the backyard was going to blow over. It was 4 supers tall (a super is just the term for the boxes that the bees live in; they come in different sizes), with the top one being used for inside feeding. It was light. It was empty.
At 3am, I gave up all attempts at sleep and went down to the kitchen. The wind is roaring outside the window and I can see tall evergreen trees being forced to bend almost 90 degrees under the force of the wind. It’s both terrifying and humbling to see nature at work like this. The trees and the wind are both so powerful. And, despite their size, so are the bees! The hive stood tall – against all odds!
Bees in the Wind
Honeybees can fly up to 20 miles per hour when they go out to forage! They slow down significantly to around 12 miles per hour on the return trip to the hive. Not because they don’t want to return home, but because they are weighed down with their nectar and pollen…it’s hard work being a worker bee! A single bee can carry almost 40% of its weight in pollen – imagine that!!
We often talk about bees flying in a straight line, or a ‘bee-line.’ If you want to bee-geeky with me, we can study how bees fly in the wind and how they fly around obstacles, especially when they are weighed down with their forage. Considering their size, you would think they would just go where the wind blew them, but no – honey bees are strong, they are smart, and they are survivors!
Windy weather does not keep the honeybees inside the hive. They have work to do. Bees will change altitudes to maximize their efforts to get the job done. Sometimes this means flying lower and through dangerous areas where there are many obstacles. Flying lower will most often mean less wind, but it can also mean flying through grassy fields or bushy areas. A scrape with a branch or leaf can cause irreparable damage to their delicate wings and will lead to their death.
Cluttered vegetation also poses a flight hazard because collisions with vegetation can lead to irreparable wing damage which impairs flight performance and is associated with higher mortality in bees To avoid collisions, bees flying through cluttered vegetation (or other obstacles) can use the visual information they gather to execute rapid lateral or vertical maneuvers, perform braking maneuvers, or take more sinuous paths around the obstacles
Wind and route choice affect performance of bees flying above versus within a cluttered obstacle field (last accessed 1/2/2023) https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0265911
Windbags…and other windy lore
My mother sometimes described people in our neighborhood as “old windbags” – it wasn’t a compliment. She meant that they were “full of hot air”, yet another description related to the wind, which is just defined as air that moves. The official definition of a windbag is an is an exhaustively talkative person. Don’t you love that description…EXHAUSTIVELY talkative?
Yet another windy saying, courtesy of my mother: “Get outside and blow the stink off of you!” Charming, isn’t it? LOL. I adopted this one and hope it will pass down another generation. We need the wind but sometimes we avoid the fresh air.
Studies support the benefits of fresh air walks, particularly on windy cold days! People who make the effort to get outside for at least 20 minutes benefit from a sense of accomplishment and self-pride. More calories are burned when you walk against the wind. Air in motion is typically healthier and cleaner.
My sister-in-law was one of the most protective mothers I have ever met. But she advocated getting my preemie babies outside for a fresh air walk every day…except on windy days. She was 100% right. Windy weather can sap precious moisture from baby’s tender skin and easily give them wind burn.
In literature, wind is symbolic. It usually means change. The wind can also be a symbol of the spirit. It’s invisible yet it has a strong effect on many things.