Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blessed Honey Bees

Last year about this time I discovered that I lost both my Bee hives. One colony died of starvation, they weren't able to store enough honey to carry them through the winter.  The other perished from Colony Collapse Disorder. They simply vanished, leaving behind a hive full of honey.

I bought two more packages of Bees and put them in the hives last May. We spent time getting to know each other, and over the winter I went out to check on them, putting on a stethoscope and listening to each hive for the low pitched hum. The ancient practice of Bee shamanism shares many secrets of beekeeping.  Things like the little known fact that bees love to hear stories. So I told them stories. I sang them songs. I prayed that they would survive into spring. And they did.

Today was the first warm day of the season, and the girls were out in full force. In the winter on warm days they will take "elimination" flights, I am sure you can figure that out. But these new flights had a greater purpose. They were foraging.

I look outside my big picture window and I see the naked landscape, no longer winter and not quite yet spring. The snowdrops are blooming in my backyard and the red maple trees have donned their blossoms.  But that is all I can see of spring.

The Bees, however, see much more. I was surprised to observe the girls flying in with large pollen sacs on their back legs, they had found flowers!  And they must have found lots of them, because almost every other Bee entering the hive was weighted down with large white bundles of protein-rich pollen. And with that pollen they bring nectar to make honey.  Spring has truly arrived.

I have two Bee hives, a traditional Langstroth box and a newer top-bar hive. I noticed fewer Bees going in and out of the top-bar, so since it was a nice warm day I decided to open it up and check on the girls.

Using a metal pry bar, I gently lifted each frame and marveled at the beautiful, free hanging honey comb.  The newest was ivory white, this year's comb.  They artfully build two heart-shaped combs side by side, then connect them, creating one large comb.  Honey Bees hold on to each others' legs and form Bee chains to measure by.  Simply amazing.

All seemed well in the Bee hive, with some combs beginning to be filled with brood as indicated by the raised cap on the cell of the comb.  Many combs were glowing with honey, that sweet, sacred liquid treasured by all. I asked the girls if I might have one comb, and after much bee discussion, they agreed. I cut the comb from the wooden top bar and placed it on a fine screen that seats nicely on my five gallon honey bucket.  Mashing the comb with a wooden spoon, the smell of fresh honey filled my kitchen almost immediately.  Pearls of golden ambrosia began to drip into the bucket.

It takes 5 million flowers to make one pint of honey. This morning I filled my mason jars with 10.5 million flowers worth.

Mind blowing.

Blessed Honey Bees.

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