Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Great Honey Harvest of Autumn '07
Julia Roll came over to teach us a thing or two about beekeeping. Since capturing this swarm back in April, I've helped harvest perhaps 5 gallons of honey. I've had some anxiety ever since my two children did some midnight beekeeping a few months ago; the bees got very aggressive for a time (in response to my whacked out energy, certainly, as well as having their home ripped apart at 1 in the morning). But they were very docile on Saturday. No one received a sting!
Julia, above without a bonnet, explained why we blow smoke on the bees. "The smoke triggers the 'flight' part of the flight or fight response. If there were a real fire, they'd flee the hive. What we're doing is causing them to fill their honey stomachs, so they have energy and honey to start up a new hive if they have to leave."
"They have a honey stomach? Cool!" said a few of us. "I think I have a honey stomach," said Kachina.
"I know you have a honey stomach," I told her.
I built what is called a top-bar hive. Each bar of lumber has a little starter strip for the bees to use to orient their comb building. Here you can see how simple and low-tech the whole thing is. Bruce, up on the balcony, has put up with being in the flight path all summer long. I think he even got a couple of bees in his house once. So I gave him some of the honey we collected. We're slowly moving the hive to a different (better) part of the yard, so Bruce won't be buzzed whenever he's out on his balcony smoking his cigars. Or rather, he'll be buzzed, but not by the bees.
Karl said, "Bob, this is wealth. This is gold." I looked around at my friends, as we shared quality time and learned a new skill. I saw a different kind of wealth, and I also completely agree with him. We collected two kinds of honey.
"This is the best honey I've ever tasted," said Kachina.
Julia agreed, "This is really good. There is also this darker honey, full of pollen, in these combs here." She handed them over.
"We can make salves and beauty products from this," said Liz.
"No way," said Aaron and Karl. "We're going to eat it!" Karl smashed it all together, breaking the honey and pollen away from the comb. We all tasted it. All the girls didn't care too much for it, except Julia. She liked the extra kick it gave. We all started buzzing.
"This is Man Honey!" Aaron and Karl and I laughingly dubbed it.
"You know, Bob, this is what the shamans were responsible for: to go out in to the forest and to know what they things they found were good for," said Karl. "This darker honey seems more
medicinal. I'm glad we didn't combine it with the blond honey."
"Here, lick this clean!" we said, handing Aaron another caramel-colored harvest tool. He started to turn red from all the Man Honey he was consuming.
I'm really grateful to Julia for cleaning up the hive. We had some potentially serious issues in there; comb that had been built across bars and attached to the sides of the box and moldy pollen seemed to be the biggest issues. The bees had simply foraged too well, and we hadn't helped them by harvesting their excess.
But it's all good now. Aaron is going to be my bee-buddy. He'll take on much of the hive tending. Kachina feels she is up the to task of keeping her honey-stomach filled. I like that everyone feels good about the role they have.