Written for middle-grade readers, my first book, The Mystery of Apple Crest, takes place on an Apple Orchard. A young girl and her family have moved into her grandfather’s home and learn to manage an Apple Orchard. In the course of writing this book, I learned an important lesson when a beekeeper’s fear stopped me in my tracks.
I wrote this book mumble-mumble years ago. It is a sweet story, not well written, but in my defense, it was my first. Diligent, as always, I researched a lot of stuff. I’d been to orchards too many times to count, I’d even stayed a few nights in my aunt and uncle’s home with its orchard (see More than a Game). But I’d never lived on an orchard. So I visited a local orchard, toured the place, and asked lots of dumb questions.
Bees and Apple Orchards
During the course of the tour, I discovered that this orchard also had rows of beehives. It’s obvious once you think about it, apple trees have blossoms that must be pollinated. Bees are pollinators. In fact, apple orchards depend on honey bees to pollinate the trees. For best results, they need approximately 20-25 bees per tree. It makes sense that apple growers would have as many bees as possible available within the orchard.
When it came time to actually plot out my story, I decided there would be a rivalry between two orchards. This rivalry would fulminate in particular between the 10-year-old girls who lived there. The heroine had never lived on an orchard before. The villain, a girl who’d grown up on an orchard, feared the techniques and technologies of the newcomers would destroy her family’s livelihood. The big mystery would involve the heroine’s orchard beehives. This meant I needed to know how to sabotage beehives and colonies. Before the internet, one had to go to the public library to research such things.
My public library at that time had lots of information about beekeeping but nothing in the books I researched helped me with ways to sabotage the hives. Serendipity came to play with me. As was my annual habit at the time, I attended the Flower and Garden Show. Lo and behold, the Midwestern Beekeepers Association had a booth.
I screwed up my courage and marched up to that booth. Introduced myself as a fiction writer, and explained what I needed. The beekeeper looked at me askance. “Why would anyone murder bees?” He couldn’t tell me how to do that. What if people copied it and killed some real bees? Dumbfounded, I explained this was for a fiction book. No matter how I cajoled, he wouldn’t budge. I did not get any further information from him.
The Beekeeper’s Fear
Over time, I did find the information I needed. Remembering the beekeeper’s fear, I changed the information to sound accurate but not exact. I finished the novel. It was never published. Someday I may go back and revise it, but not until after I finish current projects. And I have plenty of them.
Bees are vital to so many plants and man has severely damaged bee populations. So it turns out the beekeeper’s fear was valid. No, not from a fear that a child would murder bees, but that someone would harm bees because of personal gains or vendettas. Little if any the harm done to bees in the past couple of hundred years was intentional, but it was real. I learned to respect that bad people can get their ideas from everywhere. And, I learned that where there’s a will, there’s a way—despite a beekeeper’s fear.