Oh Honey

Last June I was fortunate enough to inherit a swarm of bees from a kindly neighbor’s hive. Though the industrious critters worked zealously through the summer and into autumn, it was to my great sorrow to discover the colony’s company steadily dwindling through the months of February and March. While they left behind a full “deep” of drawn comb and capped honey, ultimately, the girls succumbed to a harsh winter, and I found myself hiveless and bereft.

In the ensuing weeks, I watched with sadness (and at times fervently battled) as a colony of ants endeavored to take up residence in my now empty hive. Fortunately, a local community of bee keepers added me to their waiting list of interested persons hoping to obtain a “nucleus” of bees, dispelling a degree of my despondency. Weeks of waiting affected further discouragement.

UNTIL… Yesterday evening, when I had made to once again evict the filching formicidae, and was descending to a deeper despair in my apiary pursuits, a solitary bee set down upon my hand. Momentarily distracted from my ineffectual commission, I spoke to her in a low tone, imploring her to enlighten her sisters of this well – appointed domicile. I articulated that, should they consider inhabiting this lovely Langstroth (and evict their colonized cousins currently bivouacking amongst the frames), they’d be well – provided for. The foraging bee (I shall call her Pilar) listened patiently before taking to her wings again, leaving me alone with the damnable ants. It being past the time of preparing for my evening out with the ever – enduring Ms. Clementine Seville, I set about my new task of grooming for our schedule affair. In the midst of making myself presentable, I received a message from my good neighbor informing me that his hive had yet again swarmed and had just deposited itself atop the tree behind his property.

Hurriedly, I made my way to the site where the swarm had come to rest. Being unfamiliar with this variety of labor, I took my lead from my most capable fellow whose bees we were intent upon extracting. The operation required a “slow and deliberate” pace, he advised, so as not to disturb too greatly, the spherical mass of vibrating bustle. Employing great caution we set about the charge of cutting out the branch where upon the mass had alighted. Ian, being the taller chap, perched himself on that most useful top rung of the ladder (to be exploited only in dire situations such as these), and deftly excised the branch from the tree with several surgical snips, before handing it to me. “Give it two shakes: one short, one sharp… just over the box of frames there”. After watching him mime the action a few time, I repeated the movement (with no small degree of unease) to an audible fwhump, followed by a substantial cloud of mildly confused, but surprisingly docile bees. Within a few minutes, the animation had lessened itself to a manageable hum and the entire effort was done in less than a quarter of an hour. In the last luminance of the day, we loosely fitted the lid to the top and removed ourselves from the area while the stragglers found their way into their temporary home. Late last night, the Nuc was sealed and transported to my estate, thence placed next to the awaiting hive. This few hours past I carefully transplanted the five full frames into a half – empty “deep”, resting on top of last year’s “deep” with its cache of drawn comb and honey. It’s difficult to discern who is happier at the moment… me, the neighbor from whose tree we removed the swarm, or the roughly 15 thousand bees now residing in the furnished hive. Should this colony of new tenants prove capable, I plan to appropriate a small levy of honey from their efforts to use in my newest vermouth! More news on that subject as the details develop.