Monday, June 4, 2012

Bringing Home the Honey

During one of my weekly visits to town and while reading to sleep a hospice patient, my husband was running around the property here at home frantically trying to capture a swarm of bees.  Funny how I told him that morning it’s not fair that I have to go to town every time and we should share the abuse, but in his determined way he stated, “no, I have too much to do”.  Even my attempt to do the weeding didn’t prevail and good thing it didn’t.  Had he not been here, I don’t believe I would of made the catch alone.  I probably would of been so involved in the moment that they would of disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

I looked out on the deck to see if I could see him in the garden below and noticed his bee hat and winter gloves sitting on a table on the deck.  I  proceeded to unpack the car and put the groceries away thinking it was a good possibility we had bees again.   

When he approached the back door, all I could see was his sparkling blue eyes and his white teeth.  It’s been a long time since I saw him smile like that, I knew then he had caught a swarm. 

The excitement he expressed was contagious as he proceeded to tell me how he had never seen anything like it.  He said it appeared like a string of dots about 6 feet from the soil stretching almost the entire width of the garden and the sound was deafening.

He worked quickly by himself and noticed that 5 feet separated 2 good size elongated shapes in the Dappled Willow that borders the one side of the garden.  By the time he ran up from the garden to gather a wooden box there was only one swarm left and it hung on a branch that he clipped into the box which he quickly covered with a screen.  Later he lifted the box into the garden cart and left them to settle down overnight.

Our good friend who has more beekeeping knowledge than us showed up bright and early the next morning (good friends like this are hard to find) and they were able to transfer them into our Top Bar hive where they now reside happily building comb and hopefully before long…brood.  It’s good to have them close again as they are so entertaining to watch, hence the name, "busybee".  Occasionally you’ll see the pollen attached to their bodies before they enter the hive and I always wonder what flavor the honey will be. 

Transferring the swarm

Nice Catch
I remember when we purchased our first 3 lb box of Italian bees from the Glorybee Factory Retail Store in Eugene in April 2011.  The workers all wore tee shirts that stated, "I work for the Queen."   We fed them for a short while until they became busy and were able to bring in their own food.  The hive was healthy and quite large before winter and we never took any honey from it.  We lifted it on one side to make sure it was heavy and never thought we would have to feed them again.  By the time we checked they had all starved and I picked bodies out of the comb one by one with tweezers.  It was heartbreaking but the pain was ours to bear as even the sad lessons in life need to be felt. 

My husband blamed himself for quite some time knowing that he starved them, and we didn’t talk much about it until the time came again for purchasing.   

We started seeing ads for swarm removal and my husband and friend kept their eyes open for anything they could possibly catch.  We decided that we didn’t want to purchase bees from California when we could capture a swarm on our own property or nearby.  We contacted everyone we could to keep his or her eyes and ears open.   

It makes it so much sweeter not to have to purchase bees with something so unnatural as money, especially when nature allows us another opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  Once again the smell of honey surrounds the homestead and the bees are in the clover, how sweet it is.