Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sharing with the Honeybees

Timing is Everything...

I've been thinking about getting a bee hive for several years now. We have a reasonably roomy yard. We have lots of fruit trees. In particular, it's important for us to have a healthy supply of bees around when the big cherry tree out front blooms. When blooms and bees connect, we receive a beautiful harvest.

Well, so I'd been thinking about getting a hive box, and learning how to keep bees, mostly because of the fruit trees, but also because - Bees are cool! And…honey!

So imagine my delight when, sometime this summer, a queen and her hive took up residence in a hollow in our maple tree out at the front of our yard. Very discrete, by the corner of the lot.

I was grateful for their presence, doing the work among the flowers. But I also wondered - would we somehow have a chance to receive a gift of honey? (I have done nothing to "prepare" to actively harvest the honey. No bee suit. No smoker. I was content just to have them there.)

We enjoyed watching the bees all last summer and fall. Winters, being mild here, don't really deter the bees.  So I would go out occasionally and say hello.

Then, some time last week, I went out to see them... and they were gone! There were no buzzing sounds, no little bodies busily doing bee business. All quiet. A fly or two. Some crawly bugs.

No bees.

I was a little disappointed and sad. I know bee hives don't last forever, but I thought, "Geez, at least it would have been nice for them to make it through to the cherry blossoming." But they were gone.

So I bravely grabbed a ladder out of the garage and propped it up against the tree.  I clambered up and peered inside.

Definitely no bees.

I reached my hand up and into the hole, and touched the comb. It was very light feeling. I grabbed it, tentatively at first, and then more firmly. I pulled and a piece broke off into my hand.

I pulled it out of the hole and examined it. Wow. Amazingly cool to see this really miraculously precise layout of hexagons built "by hand" from "hand-made" wax. Just stunning.

So I found a large plastic container and started pulling the comb out, a piece at a time. Beautiful beeswax. We would melt it down to make candles, I thought.  Mostly, the comb was empty. Here and there I found a chamber filled with pollen.

Then, as I reached further in, the comb had real heft. And as I grabbed and pulled, it became slick and sticky!

What an amazing thing. Big chunks of comb - two-sided, back-to-back chambers - filled with honey. Woo hoo!

So I pulled it all out, and began researching how to extract honey from the comb.

By the way, the honey is marvelous. Delicious and golden and sweet and tangy and raw. It's an amazing experience.
Yesterday was a beautiful day to be outside. So I went out front to pull some weeds. I looked over to the maple tree, fondly remembering the bee-ful activity and thinking again about the wonderful gift.

Wait! What's that? I looked again.

They're back.


  1. Hey Amalia - thanks for stopping by. Yeah, it's really cool. We're really grateful and happy.