Wednesday, March 18, 2009

secret life of bees

I have to tell you that I never envisioned us becoming the caretakers of honey bees. I was initially enthralled when my husband had the opportunity to save the above "bee tree" from being destroyed. Bee trees that are transferred to organized hives are a fairly uncommon event. He came home one evening and asked me how I felt about having a bee hive in the yard. I said "sounds interesting," and our adventure began. That was toward the end of 2008.

A week ago, my husband was told about an old cabin that is to be destroyed for developers. The caretaker of the property told him their were honey bees in the wall. He went to check it out, and sure enough there was a huge hive. Since this cabin will soon be gone, he made plans to move the hive to frames and a box. The following pictures give you an idea of the fascinating process. I wanted to detail some of it, for eager young learners...
First, they smoked their entry hole from the outside. This calms the bees. Then, they went in and had to saw open the wall. Before that, they could see nothing of the hive, only the blank stare of sheet rock. They were pleasantly surprised. Look at the beautiful hive! (It's a little smokey in the picture below.)
Next came the tedious process of moving intact comb from the wall into frames. He said it was really difficult not to injure a bee here and there. There were thousands. He had to use a fish fillet knife to carefully saw the comb from the wall.
The hive was rich with honey. It has a slight bit of orange or citrus taste to me. Most of it will be kept with the bees for them to feed on; we won't harvest it for human consumption yet. We were actually shocked that no bear had broken in and helped himself. The cabin has been abandoned for the last few years. The last person to live there said the bees were in the wall then.
The comb was carefully put in the frames and then in the box. You can see in the picture above how some of the cells are capped with wax, holding in the honey. This is the wax that we use for candles and body products. They let the box sit in the cabin for another day so that the bees could settle and reorganize. In a sense, they were setting up their new home. Yesterday, my husband saw the queen in the box so he knew the hive was ready to move. Last night, after dark, when the bees were all "asleep" in their new home, he brought the box home. Now we're the proud new caretakers of 2 hives that would have been destroyed. So far, it has been a very exciting year.
I said that I was initially enthralled, but now I am enchanted. Yesterday, I got to go in that old cabin. Late day sun was streaming in the windows, and thousands of bees filled the air. There was silence except for the droning of bees. It was magic. The first time I went in the cabin, I had no suit on. Some landed on me or bumped into me, but not a one was bothered by me. I calmed my breath, and after a few minutes it felt like a sort of meditation. It was unbelievably peaceful in that room, removed from all the worries of the world, and surrounded by productivity. Later I went back in with a suit, and got closer to the hive. It was just phenomenal to watch them work. There is a symmetry to their world that fills me with peace. So many times in our thirteen years together, my husband and I have stumbled onto new paths in our lives. This is one of those times when the opportunity has just appeared, and it feels so right.






9 comments:

Dana said...

Wow!! Thank you for sharing this with us. So interesting. I look forward to future installments of your life with bees. :)

Kristina said...

Great pictures! It's too bad that cabin is slated for demolition-- it looks (and sounds) like a magical place.

Kristina
Sweetfern Handmade

Valerie said...

Awesome! What lucky bees to have found such wonderful keepers :)

Susan said...

That is so fascinating - and I love your description of standing in the room...I could feel that peace, that humming. Wow.

Katie said...

Great post! It reminds me of the hives my great grandpa kept in the old orchard. I am such a nostalgic soul..reminders like these are the highlights of my day!

Katie said...

...AND I just realized we are neighbors! I am in Hendersonville -- nice to meet you!

cygnetsmall said...

I just came to your blog via the Artful Parent and wanted to say thanks for keeping the bees. I just started reading the book Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen and it has me wanting to keep bees too in order to help them out! -molly

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I'm so sad that the cabin is going away! It looks so wonderful. I grew up in a log cabin that my parents build (without a kit, like this one), and just love them. Good for you for saving the bees. We had bees growing up, too, and I'd love to have them again.

patrick said...

Dearest Brown Robin! Love reading your blog and can hardly wait to get up there to see you all!! What an awesome life your giving your kids, gardens of flowers and veggies, bee keeping, sewing, sharing, etc. etc. Miss you!!!!! Love and great big hugs, Noreen