Friday, June 12, 2009

Baby bees

It takes so much planning to feed baby bees; one has to first boil water and then add the appropriate amount of sugar. The syrup is then set aside for several hours, depending on the amount made, and then carefully poured into quart jars and fitted with feeder lids. These lids have pin size holes that allow the syrup to fill the hive feeder very slowly as the bees 'drink' the mixture. Then, after the quart jars are filled, they are inverted into the hive feeder and set very carefully on the front of the hive. If you hold your mouth just right, the wind isn't blowing, and the front of the hive is sticky enough from previous feedings, the feeder will stay put the first try. If not, you have to jump very quickly beneath the bees' flight path, scoop up the feeder and try again. Of course, in the process of doing this, there is always some syrup that gets on your hand, making it very interesting when you go near the hive with the feeder the next time. Bees are indiscriminate about the source of their syrup. Hands. Feeders. Arms. It is all the same to them!

So, why feed bees? Feeding the bees makes it easier for them to pull comb and then jump right into making honey. They are spared the labor of seeking pollen and nectar (these are very different to the bees -- one is for later and the other for honey now) and can get right to the business of making enough comb in which to store their honey. Having food right at hand keeps them from spending needless hours and days searching and working. Thus, the comb is pulled quicker, their food is made sooner and then our honey is made. It takes about 90 pounds of honey for a hive to survive the winter. And, believe me, we make sure they have their food first and then we take what is left. So, feeding the bees is just a selfish way of making sure we have honey come September.

Sounds easy, doesn't it?

This week it has been a challenge because of two things: rain and my bee allergy.

The rain has poured until I have caught the cats and dogs on the porch, two-by-two, waiting for a lift. And when it hasn't been raining, it has been blistering hot and sunny. The girls love sunshine and any temperature above 50-degrees. They flit in and out of the hive at nearly super-sonic speed in order to make the best possible use of their time in the sun. To get near the hive during this time is to have a death wish. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to find a time, other than right at dusk, to feed the girls because of this. And this is the time we usually have rain.

And, did I mention that I am very allergic to bees? Isn't that ironic? Yet, nine out of ten times, I feed them. Just walk right up to the hive and put the feeders on. No bee suit. No smoker. Nothing. I am reminded of the scene in "Fried Green Tomatoes" about the bee charmer. I'd like to think I am one, but I realize that is unlikely! More like than not, I am just very lucky. So far.
Trust me, I am not anxious to push that luck by trying to feed during the sunny part of the day!

So, here I am. There are eight quarts of feed to go on the hives. There are two gallons of syrup cooling in Don's grandmother's Revere ware pot (it is heavy and so lovely!). And the sun is shining.

Anyone feel lucky?

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