Sweating out bad Bee-havior

Posted 8/10/19

My intention Sunday was to harvest honey from all four of our beehives. I couldn't think of a sweeter way to spend the day.After coffee, I suited up. While the bees are relatively docile most of the …

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Sweating out bad Bee-havior


My intention Sunday was to harvest honey from all four of our beehives. I couldn't think of a sweeter way to spend the day.

After coffee, I suited up. While the bees are relatively docile most of the time, they get testy when you start fooling with their honey.

I can't imagine why. The bees in a hive must visit 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey. OK, just reading the previous sentence makes me feel a little bad...but I digress.

The thing I enjoy most about the bees is that when I'm tending to them, I'm there. My mind is not wandering about schedules, chores, or politics. I'm focused on the work at hand.

After putting on my coveralls, a long-sleeve shirt, my bee veil, and leather gloves, I headed to the field beneath the peach and apple trees. The equipment is bulky, so I have a rolling cart that I pull behind me.

The temperature was in the low 90s, but with the humidity, it felt hotter than a welding torch. 

By the time I popped the top cover of the first hive, I was pouring perspiration. Did I mention that bees are tidy insects? In winter, they will die before using the bathroom in the beehive.

They are not fans of sweaty beekeepers. They were NOT happy with me sweating around their hives

The suit kept me safe from stings, but the bees seemed to be talking bad about my parents as I worked.

Inspecting the first rack in the super (honey box) every frame was filled with golden honey. Grunting involuntarily, I hefted the super from the hive onto my cart and went about some hivish (I just made this word up) routines.

Glancing inside a second box, I noticed something different. Instead of frames of golden honey, these were almost black. Images of disease, locusts, pestilence, and other maladies invaded my mind. 

Closing the hive, I knew my internal thermometer was telling me the fun was over.

Pulling the cart behind, hundreds of angry bees followed. Their buzzing sounded like - BRING BACK OUR HONEY YOU SCALAWAG.

Approaching the screen porch, which is now a makeshift harvesting room, the bees trailed off and headed back toward their hive. 

After harvesting all the frames, the bucket of honey weighed 30 pounds.

Even though the harvesting process goes through a number of strainers, there were still tiny pieces of honeycomb that found its way through. It takes a few days for it to rise to the top so that it can be removed. 

A few days later, Jilda sterilized the jars. The one super of honey was enough to fill six quarts and four pints of honey from the bucket and there is still honey left.

Since last Sunday, I had an opportunity to talk with the beekeeper that sold me my hives. When asked about the black honeycomb, he laughed and said that all the honeycomb turns that dark color as it ages. I smiled when I heard those words.

Hopefully, it will be a little cooler this coming weekend, so I can harvest the other hives.

There are a lot of reasons to keep bees, but we decided to keep bees because we love honey and it’s good for us. The work is satisfying, and also, Mother Nature loves bees. 

I think it would behoove us all to “bee sweet.”

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com.