Buzz Laurie FOX Pessemier Acrylic on canvas 10.5 x 16 inches
Christine, Canaille’s mistress, was talking to a most unusual man in the garden when we arrived early on Monday. He had eyeballs so large, I could barely see any whites; his eyebrows were completely shaggy and encircled the top of his eyes; he was round. He was as taken with me as I was with him, and came over at once to introduce himself. He was the beekeeper at the hives at the Luxembourg Gardens.
Blair and I have painted the hives, and the bees innumerable times. There is a collection of antique hives, and there are new, beeswaxed teak boxes with copper roofs which seem to please their occupants.
We sang our praises of the bees and hives to the beekeeper. I asked how the bees were doing. In fact, he told us his bees were among the healthiest and most prolific in all of France. Why? No pesticides.
We discussed the current nemesis of bees: colony collapse. There was no sign of that here. “Because of industrial farming, insecticides and pesticides are now integrated in the seed: at levels 2,500 times that of “crop dusting” – the former method for eliminating pests. Bees are fragile creatures – they have to remember where they are, how to get back to the hive and how to direct the other bees to the flowers – that’s too much to do when their bodies are compromised by pesticides.”
As he related this story, he buzzed with passion. “Here, in the gardens, we replace our queens every 2-3 years; in America, queens are replaced 2 or 3 times each year.” Life is hard for the industrial bee, even if you are royalty.
At Tuesday’s open air market, the flower man had exemplary specimens: we settled on 18 pale pink and pale green roses and a meat-colored chrysanthemum (in retrospect, perhaps we should have visited the butcher first). He had other equally beautiful flowers: multi-colored anemones, carnations and cyclamen. He had a wizened look: a painfully thin nose, wire rim glasses and he was smoking home made cigarettes. He worked slowly, wrapping each purchase. He was the antithesis of the bee man, but perhaps just a drone instead of a royal bee. Or he could have been a wasp.
While walking by St Sulpice on Saturday, two honeybees seemed to be engaged in a fight, one pursuing the other, first here, then there. They were flying at what seemed to be the purported 20 miles an hour a bee can achieve, not carrying pollen (Someone once told me you can outrun a bee, but anyone who has stepped near a nest knows that is not true). After lunch with friends we walked back and found the two splattered on the sidewalk, engaged in a fatal embrace. I wondered if they were bees from the Luxembourg Gardens.