Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Honeybees (and a master beekeeper)

April 9, 2014

2014 A to Z Blog Challenge
A Rural Life
Day 8

H is for Honeybees

We’ve reached the second week of the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge! This is the fourth year I’ve participated in the challenge, and this year, 2014, is all about My Rural Life. It’s sort of like middle America meets urban sprawl meets Walton’s Mountain. It’s my life and the forces that come together to make my unique world. 

So thanks for coming along for the ride in the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge.


I promised a long time ago I'd tell you about my grandfather's beekeeping. Today's the day to deliver on that promise. 

One of my earliest memories is helping my grandfather make frames for honeycomb. Not many people around here kept bees, but Pop was known for his honey. And like everything else, if Pop was doing it, I could be found lurking at his shoulder, learning. (I must have been a real nuisance to my dad and granddad, always following them and asking bazillions of questions.)

Keeping bees is easier than you might think. The bees do all the heavy lifting and you just help them along. The older folks in the community would call my grandfather with a report of a swarm and Pop would hitch the wagon to his tractor, load an empty hive he kept at the ready, and off he’d go to see if he could capture the queen. If I got away before my mother realized what was happening, I’d tag along. Pop and I got away with all sorts of things as long as my parents didn’t catch us. My parents didn’t think BEES were an appropriate hobby for me to adopt. (They didn’t like tadpoles and crayfish, either.) All in all, they were correct, but when I officially retire, I might see if I can find and capture a swarm to keep a hive.

The pictures tell the story. I think I was in my twenties when I took them. Pop spotted a swarm along the back stone fence on what had just become my property, a gift from my grandparents. My grandmother called and said he was working a swarm so I grabbed my camera and went to watch.

He spread a piece of plastic and set the new hive on it. For some reason, Pop only ever used aged scrap wood for the hives. I suppose anything harmful in the wood and/or paint had aged out and no longer posed a threat to the bees. Anyway, once the hive was in place, Pop would cut the branch the swarm was hanging on, carry it to the hive and careful lay it on the plastic sheet. The bees would spread out and he could spot the new queen and get her inside the hive. Then all the worker bees followed her in and Pop would temporarily block the hive entrance to trap them so he could transport it to its place in the row. Bee charming is an art and he rarely got stung.

Honeybees - all our pollinators - are threatened these days, and it IS a serious matter. I’m grateful that scientists and biologists take the problem seriously and are working on solutions. The world is not going to be a nice place if we lose pollinators. Less fruit. Fewer veggies. Fewer flowers. Fewer trees. We need honeybees. Even if you’re a city dweller, plant a flower on your balcony and feed a bee. You might be helping to save more than one tiny life.

You didn’t really think you’d get away without a 
brief book promo, did you?

H is also for HIGHWAY NIGHTS. 


Christiane France - Author said...

Sounds like an interesting hobby. But while I love honey, but I'm terrified of bees. Those critters sting like there's no tomorrow.

Unknown said...

I love bees and beekeeping ... well, not that I know anything about it, but it's so important to our ecosystem. There's a big (lack of) bee problem right now in California that I don't ... completely understand. Can't they just bring more bees in or something? See how little I know!

Visiting via A to Z from Pass the Sour Cream

Anna (herding cats-burning soup) said...

Oh goodness. That just makes my palms sweat. I don't handle bee stings well so stay away from all flying critters. Great memories with your Pop though! Sounds like quite the experience!

Happy A to Z-ing!
herding cats & burning soup.

Shail Raghuvanshi said...

Hi Kendricks. A lovely narrative for the day. Keep writing. It's nice reading what you write....And yes, I saw the promotion too!!

KC Kendricks said...

I have my grandfather's net bonnet. Trust me - if I'm lucky enough to find a swarm, I will have it on, my sleeves and pants will be banded closed and I'll have on gloves. I'm wimpy. Pop was tough.

Rebekah Loper said...

I remember back when the neighborhood my grandparents live in used to be surrounded by farmland - most of it is shopping centers and highway now.

But there were several people in the neighborhood we could go and get raw honey from, just by walking down a couple different streets. You could see the hives from the fences along the backyards, and it was fascinating to me even then.

Now as I turn into a hippie urban farmer, bees become ever more important to me.

I do want a hive of my own eventually - technically our city ordinances would allow me to have up to 4 hives - but I'm not at the place yet where I can handle it.

Soon, hopefully!

~Rebekah Loper
Fantastical Ponderings - The A-Zs of Worldbuilding
The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

KC Kendricks said...

Good local honey is hard to come by these days but the local is what's good for you.