What a perfectly gorgeous day we had last Sunday for a bee yard inspection.
Maribeth and her husband Dean visited the farm, and we all had the nicest time laughing, trading stories, eating a long, leisurely, family style dinner (the first time she and I had cooked together, which was really fun!) and of course loving and admiring the bees.
Well, she and I loved and admired the bees. Our husbands have bonded over a general distaste for or at least mistrust of the buzzing, swarming creatures. They talk a lot about “hot hives” and how they need to be controlled or punched in their little faces because of the mowing difficulties they present, and both men complain good naturedly about how much money their wives spend on sugar for bee yard welfare efforts.
Now you know. Beekeeping is sometimes a controversial topic in marriages.
By the way, dinner was scrumptious. We feasted on roasted garlic-lemon chicken, fried garden squash, and this beautiful tomato tart, also using fresh garden produce. If you have not yet tried Edie’s tomato tart, please do so pronto. It’s prime time for fresh garden tomatoes, and this flavor combination is a sure bet. Just use your favorite pie crust recipe and have some fun. We loved it! Zero leftovers.
Okay. The bees.
There was really good news and surprising news.
The good news is that both hives are thriving. They are free of wax moths and all other problematic invasions. They are multiplying like crazy. And they are pulling out foundation on most, nearly all, of the frames. There is lots and lots of brood in each of the colonies, which is evidence of a queen, though we didn’t exactly see either matriarch. That’s okay.
Also, we didn’t even need to smoke the bees. Maribeth paid them a lovely compliment by calling them “exceptionally gentle.” Swoon! I know this is irrational, but that felt as good as if someone had paid my own daughters a compliment for their good manners or something. As if I personally have a single thing to do with the bees’ temperament. How ’bout we just catalog that warm fuzzy feeling among the many ways our friends and family have described the Lazy W: peaceful, life giving, loving. This is our dream.
Okay. More good news is that there’s a little honey in each hive, which means the bees are working toward a winter supply.
This also points to the surprising news, however, which is that there is not as much honey there as I had thought. If you’ve noticed me mentioning here or on Facebook that on warm days I can smell honey from the garden gate, that’s true; but perhaps it’s more the comb or the nectar warming up that makes that lovely perfume. And the glossy cells I’ve seen while stealing a quick peek inside the hives are not surplus honey at all. It’s very little compared to how many bees are populating the boxes. They will need every bit of that and more to survive the winter.
So. I will not be harvesting honey this summer, and our “welfare” feeding efforts will continue. I am totally, one hundred percent, whole heartedly okay with this, because the bees are happy. We have survived the first season with two new colonies. I have learned more. And, thanks to my Dad’s carpentry skills and generosity, I’m better prepared for the future this time. Maybe I’ll even learn to make splits or catch swarms.
One of the funnest parts of Sunday’s inspection was witnessing the birth of a baby honey bee. Can you even imagine the minuscule, delicate sweetness of that moment?
We caught it quite by accident, having noticed among so many crawling, working bees, their hineys up to the sun, one little bee face. A very tiny, pale one. Look in this photo below, how you can see the bees buried face down in the cells, working, hineys up to the sun…
Well somewhere on one of the frames we noticed a small, pale face instead of a hiney, and it was so obvious, so different, we froze all activity to watch. How I wish we had video to share or even one photo of that amazing moment, but try to forgive us because we were both dressed to the hilt in bees suits and veils, and operating smart phones with heavy gloves is tricky at best. All hail National Geographic, right? And just try to get honeybees to pose artfully for you. It is really truly not happening. We didn’t know until much later which photos turned out.
So as Maribeth and I watched silently, this speck of a creature chewed her way out of a snug, waxy cell, emerging very slowly into the fresh air. She was surrounded by busy bees (forgive the cliche) who just continued their work as she birthed herself. Another bee was chewing out of a cell adjacent to hers, and we were captivated.
I just wanted to share that with you. It was certainly a gift, to see her born. I tried relaying the joy to Handsome but he was still pretty wound up about the cost of sugar.
To round out this memory, here’s a quote from The Secret Life of Bees…
A true beekeeper. The words caused a fullness in me, and right at that moment an explosion of blackbirds lifted off the ground in a clearing a short distance away and filled up the whole sky. I said to myself, will wonders never cease?
Thank you so much, Maribeth, from the bottom of my heart. You will never know how much I appreciate your gentle encouragement and generosity with your time and knowledge. We love having you and Dean as friends and mentors, and I love that you have helped me resurrect a family tradition. It’s the most beautiful thing.
Celebrate your progress, friends, and be sweet.