Friday, July 3, 2009

Harvesting the Golden Treasure of Our Bee Pastures

"We are getting near," said Gandalf. "We are on the edge of his bee-pastures." --J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, as quoted on page 47 of First Lessons in Beekeeping by Keith S. Delaplane

We all vibrated with excitement yesterday as we gathered around the bee man on the side of my parent's house. It was about 6:30 a.m. The plan was to remove a feral hive of bees, steal their honey, re-locate the bees to a box hive, and have a lot of fun. The plan was accomplished.

Lighting the smoker. It's stuffed with a piece of old denim.

Smoking the girls. It didn't calm them down a bit.

Finding the bees. We lucked out. They were right there under the house, not up in the wall.

Mr. Keenon gives Nathaniel instructions for working with the bees.

Nathaniel gets assistance from Emma in tying a knot for the headgear as he warns me not to take pictures of him.

Nathaniel and Ryan prepare to meet their destiny.

Mr. Keenon presents the girls with the first chunk of honeycomb.

Dividing up the delicious golden treasure.

They consumed it right speedily, though it presented a dreadful etiquette dilemma when it was time to spit out the wax.

Isn't it lovely?

Ryan passes Nathaniel a large piece of honeycomb.

Mr. Keenon points out the queen cells on the edge of the comb.

Ahh, the succulent beebread, sweet, with a slight hint of citrus.

The hive that Emma built is being filled with honeycomb and bees. It appeared that the hive had swarmed recently, so there weren't nearly the number of bees that we were expecting. Mr. Keenon said that it might not be enough to make a successful hive.

Nathaniel threatens me with a glare because I am taking too many pictures of him, but I bee not afraid.

I think Emma may be sampling the dark comb with last year's honey.

Time to clean up. Honey had drizzled all over Ryan as he lay under the hive, and he got stung 13 times. I was really surprised that the smoke did not calm the bees more. I have a theory, though, that since they appear to be Italian bees, they are most likely Catholic--which means that if we had incensed them instead of smoking them, they probably would have gotten down on their knees and prayed, rendering them amiable instead of angry.

Nathaniel gets help removing the gloves, which he borrowed from Mr. Keenon after he got stung through the ones that came with our bee kit.

After we brought the harvest into the kitchen, Emma picked off the remaining bees, put them in a jar, and returned them to the new hive. Mr. Keenon told Emma not to move the hive more than ten feet a day away from the bees' original home.

Poor Emma! She didn't have time to shower before ballet and realized as she tried to brush her hair in the car that it was dotted with honey where bees had landed.

Today we will squeeze the honey out of the combs, filter it, and put it up in jars. We'll save the wax to make candles!

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