The Bees Tried to Warn Us


April Snowstorm

I know there will be spring, as surely as the birds know it when they see above the snow two tiny, quivering green leaves.  Spring cannot fail us.Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) 

The arrival of spring was extremely active bringing a little bit of warmth, heavy rain, a funnel cloud alert, buckets of hail, and a whole lot of snow.  On April 7, it was 72º F.  One day mason bees were buzzing in search of wildflowers that had yet to open, and then next, they struggled to reach their mud chambers before freezing to death, poor creatures.  I offered them a capful of sugar water hoping to boost their energy.  I don’t know if it worked, but I didn’t find any dead bees.  Looking back now, I realize the bees were warning us that the weather would take a drastic turn.  Two days later, on April 9, we were hit with a snowstorm.  

April just before the snowstorm California Mason Bee (male) A mason bee searches for warmth ahead of the snowstorm

April in the Cascade foothills often brings a mixed bag of weather, so it came as no surprise when it started snowing, but not like this.  The snow kept falling, and falling, and falling!  Unlike the fluffy snow we are so accustomed to, this was April snow and it was wet and heavy.  For nine days it snowed, breaking records.  Daytime highs struggled to break 32º F., as overnight lows dipped into the teens and 20s.  Having lived in the foothills for twenty-five years, we’ve never seen so much snow in the middle of April.  Fortunately, the days are longer this time of year that allowed a gradual, continuous thaw that kept us from being buried alive. 

April Snowstorm and the Bat House

Little brown bats snuggled in their house as snow fell around them.

April Snowstorm The Drift Boat

Fishing will have to wait a while longer.

April Snowstorm Wildflowers

The wild garden covered with snow.

April Snowstorm Slowly Thawiing

The thaw created wonderful sculptures along the fence.

April Snowstorm and the Spotted Towhee

A spotted towhee wondering, what happened to Spring?

The snow was relentless, coming down fast, and hard, and at times, there were brief whiteouts.  I worked diligently keeping the bird feeders topped off with seed and suet.  One morning, as the snow swirled and drifted around me as I headed back to the house, I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.  Something I’ve never heard in a snowstorm.  It was a Pacific wren bursting into song along South Bank.  Captivated, I couldn’t move.  I just stood listening, shivering.  I couldn’t tear myself away.  For almost five minutes his powerful, boisterous song swelled amid the snowflakes.  I will never forget it.  It was the highlight of the storm.

The spring snowstorm caught Oregonians off guard.  Even forecasters were surprised when measurable snow blanketed the valley floor for the first time since 1940, setting a new record.  As for the mason bees, I counted no casualties.  At the end of nine days, when the storm had finished with us, the weather warmed, the wildflowers opened for business, and the mason bees were buzzing.    

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