Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stealing honey from the bees

photo by Lehigh Valley Parenting

Dave and I stole the last of the honey from our bees yesterday. It went well. Some years it’s a more harrowing experience. Like the year Dave had a tiny hole in his pants…

It’s hard to think rationally when you have a bee in your pants. Is it better to remove the bee immediately or to wait until you’re away from the rest of the bees before you drop your pants? Dave compromised by running half way up the path from the hives to the house before he dropped his pants. Bad decision. You can’t run fast with your pants around your knees. The bees have quite a range.

I made an even worse decision while looking for the queen in my dad’s hive. The bees were angry at my intrusion and flew around me, crawling across my bee suit, running into my bee veil. Each collision produced a miniscule thud. I tensed a little more at each thud. On one of those collisions, a bee flew through a small opening at the bottom of my veil. When it flew past my face – on the inside of my veil – I panicked and ripped the veil off to let the bee out. Net result? Instead of one bee inside my veil, I had dozens tangled in my hair. I ran screaming for the lake and stuck my head under water. My mother patiently squished every entangled bee with her bare fingers and then combed them out of my hair. Neither of us was stung.

Unlike wasps, bees don’t sting for fun or as a hobby. Bees die after stinging, so only sting in defense of their hive. Now, when we work on the hives, I try to appear relaxed and non-threatening so that the bees don’t feel the need to sting.

Yesterday, everything worked well. Dave took the lid off the hive and laid it aside. Using a crowbar like hive tool, he separated the frames from each other and lifted them out of the hive individually. He brushed the bees off each frame and handed them to me. I admired the regular array of hexagonal cells capped in golden bees wax, set them into a traveling box and covered it to keep the bees from returning to their honey. The entire process took only a short time and no bees threatened us. Obviously we had been able to persuade both ourselves and the bees that all was well and we weren’t a threat to their hives.

Then we stole their honey.

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