Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Yesterday's eclipse was interesting and fun to look at (through a welder's helmet) even though we didn't achieve more than about 70% coverage here. The light was odd at the darkest point - the sky was clear and you knew the sun was shining brightly but your brain knew it wasn't the normal amount of light.  We had gone to the woods to drop a few ash trees for some grade stake material and everything just looked 'off'.

Andy only needed a few trees but wouldn't you know - one of them just caught the wrong side of the crown of a little tree and it guided the ash right into the bole of a cherry and it scraped the bark off on the way down.  Dang!  Turned out that the cherry had a seam where it had been struck by lightning and it wasn't ever going to develop into a great specimen so he ended up cutting it also.  Andy can always use more cherry lumber for the fiber tools he creates.  Although not the same species as the trees that bear cherries that we eat, the scent from the raw bark was amazing - the most pungent and tangy cherry smell you can imagine.  Just like sniffing a bottle of cherry extract flavoring.

And here's a very curious thing.  Before we left for the woods - about 20 minutes shy of reaching the darkest point in our eclipse - I heard really loud buzzing.........  our tree bees were swarming.

They went up into the higher branches of the locust tree and formed a mass that was quite a bit bigger than a basket ball.  A big swarm!

They hung there for a couple of hours.  It was too high up to think of trying to capture them but I kept an ear and eye on them.  I wanted to see what direction they went off in.  Later in the afternoon I heard that distinctive buzzing again and knew they were on the move.  But.... about half the mass of bees had fallen out of the tree and lay in a puddle on the ground.

The air was thick with bees again and I thought they were going to regroup around a queen and head off but instead I saw they were going back into the tree.  The puddle of bees continued to evaporate and after half an hour there was just a slow, small cluster in the grass.  I've heard they can do that - change their minds because the queen goes back to the hive - but it's certainly not usual.

By dark there was just a handful of bees still on the ground. I felt sorry for them since they seemed confused but it was just Nature at work - nobody did anything bad to them or interfered with their plan.

So here's a question:  Did any beekeepers out there observe their bees doing weird things during the eclipse?  Of course it could be a double coincidence - swarming at nearly the exact moment of peak eclipse and then going back into the tree later - but bees are sensitive so maybe they felt an odd gravitational shift or something.  

Things that make you say "Hmmmmm......"


  1. Hmmm. Tell NASA. They are interested in learning about odd animal behavior during the eclipse. The dogs in the park where I was (we saw totality, which was awesome) did not bark or whine, but most were border collies, who are so intelligent. The humans, however, clapped, yelled, and howled.

  2. Very interesting - I will have to check with my beekeeper friends to see if they noticed anything odd. I have a hillside of wild thyme that draws all kinds of pollinators when it flowers, but I have definitely seen less and less honey bees. It is so worrisome.

    1. P.S. What type of fiber tools does Andy make?

    2. He makes digital skein winders, a 4-bobbin lazy kate, rug hooking frames, punch needle frames, blending and teasing boards, and rag rug weaving frames. Most of those things are on the website - www.nistockfarms.com . He's also willing to undertake custom orders for warping boards and common things like that.

  3. And a wee voice in the corner was heard to whisper..."and a large ball winder?"