Searching for a Honey Tree After Thoreau – 2014


For eight days while in residence at Zeleny Les in upstate New York I searched for a honey tree after the process described in Thoreau’s journals.

The following is transcribed from my journals of the experience word for word and typeset to resemble Damion Searl’s edit of the volumes.





day one: 
*The first day of the search lead to only bumblebees. I saw approximately seven of them. It may have been eight. I suspect one was the same I saw before I had to double back because of a trail overgrown by raspberry vines.
Early in the day I did see something that may have been a honey bee but it was from a considerable distance. Tomorrow I will search the same flower patch.
day two:
I spotted five bumblebees today. I also identified three varieties of wasps. I search the flowers mentioned yesterday but to no success.
I may have seen a honey bee in the crab apple tree down the road. Tomorrow I will investigate the crab apple more closely when the sun is not setting.
day three:
Rain all day. Bees will remain in their hives.
I met with a local hobbyist who relocated the hive that was found on the property a few years ago. He described a process for finding a honey tree similar to Thoreau’s. I am to put honey on a piece of bread in a container that I can slip a lid on quickly. Try to catch four or five at a time. Then once they are caught, release them one at a time and follow as far as you can, then release another.
day four:
Rain again. Thought I heard bees near the house, most likely bumblebees. I believe one is living in the eaves of the house.
day five:
Saw three bumblebees late in the day. Maybe tomorrow. Spotted wasp nests in the eaves, perhaps the drone was them and not bumblebees.
day six:
Found that there are a few varieties of honey bees in the crab apple trees, at least two Italian. Caught two bees. I used the honey on bread method but it did not work. I spent several hours waiting for bees to find the honey. Most of the heavy laden bees look to be heading south east. Will try to pick up their trails tomorrow. The two I caught headed southeast though they were of two different varieties.
Catherine thought she heard a drone in a stand of trees near the house that I had previously suspected.
day seven:
The trap did not work. I left it all day and only flies found it. I followed two bees southeast to the edge of the property but did not find anything of promise. I most likely will not find the tree.
day eight:
Probably two hives to the southeast. No idea how far away; could be three miles. Bees were not out much today. Tomorrow is that last day I am here. Lord, I won’t find this tree. I got very close to a heavy laden Italian bee that was headed southeast. My eyes and ears are becoming more attuned to their movement and their drone but it will not be enough.
Even Thoreau gave up in his search.
*On September 30th, 1852 Henry David Thoreau, with three companions, set out to find a honey tree. He described it in his journals. He was 35.

One comment

Comments are closed.