I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

on apiaries

An apiary is a beehive; apiculture is raising bees for honey and beeswax. Among the many many other things that have crossed my mind (it's a regular highway in there, sometimes) for the farm is having some beehives. Organic honey, beeswax to use for whatever one uses beeswax for - but mainly the honey. Right out of the comb. It's been one of the lesser ideas until recently.

At the side of the farmyard, right by the fence surrounding the yard on the north side of the house, is a beautiful, tall old maple. If it's less that 80 years old I'd be surprised. Three main limbs split out from the main trunk and the center of these has seen better days. While some live branches still come out the top, a large break shows that most of that limb has died and fallen away. D noticed a month ago that in that dead limb, there was lots of bee activity. You can hear the buzzing from the vegetable garden 50 feet away. They're high up though and no immediate concern until yesterday. I came home and heard buzzing from the house. Hm. Odd. I walked over toward the tree to see a cloud of a couple hundred (no exaggeration) flying around a lilac tree. I wondered if the hive had been deserted, but not so. I went out later after warning the kids and keeping the dogs in and no more were flying - a closer examination showed that there was a clump of solid bees about the size of a football sitting on the fence under the lilac tree. Hundreds of them, all sitting together. Possibly sent out to start a new hive, was all I could think. D called our neighbor who has gotten some beehives himself this spring and he said that was likely it.

So the side of me that likes chasing cows starts thinking, there we go! the bees are all ready to go to a new hive! all we have to do is get a bee house ready for them, take them over, and away we go! Yes, dear, but since we have no house, no protective gear, and no smoker to calm them, that seems a little far fetched, don't you think? Oh. Well, maybe. Could we put them somewhere else? No. Don't be so silly. They won't sit on a shelf. Hmph.

I didn't want to kill them but as D pointed out pragmatism must again rule the day and that clump was sitting right on the gate we use to go from one yard to the other, and we weren't killing the whole hive in the tree, just what appeared to be the start of a new one. Anyone wandering too close would be in very real danger. Besides, our neighbor said the new colony would be started too late and the group wouldn't survive the winter as there wouldn't be enough time to get the honey stores they would need to make it. So, after dark, they were sprayed.

Maybe we'll get a house in the spring for some of them to come from the main hive. After all, credit where it's due: I would be willing to bet that a large part of the bumper crop in my garden this year is thanks to their pollination.

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