Reverie - n. a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream or fantasy; a visionary or impractical idea

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.

The revery alone will do
If bees are few." - Emily Dickinson

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wake Me Up

The other evening I was pulling frames of honey out of a super I had just taken away from the bees.  I lifted them out one by one, and the sun illuminated them from behind.  Look at the fire burning within those cells! 

Recently my beautiful friend Karessa wrote about me on her website:   

"Have you ever looked at someone and just known from the first moment that they were truly present and alive? That’s my friend Jen, especially when she is working her hives. She has this air of raw, unadulterated passion that pours into every conversation even tangentially related to bees. Check out her blog. You’ll see what I mean!"

I have re-read this over and over because until this year, this would not have described me.  I don't know if it was the pressures of motherhood or a lack of inspiration - maybe both - but for several years I have been a shell of my true self.  This year I gained a hundred thousand bees and one special mentor.  They woke me up.

My honey harvest is just days away...I can taste it.  It is the culmination of this incredible first year of beekeeping.  This blog is so challenging and rewarding, but I need to step away for a bit.  I'm so afraid to lose this spark.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Today was a bad day.

And when I have a bad day, I visit with my bees. There is much wisdom to be gathered from them, and today I wanted it desperately. I also needed to feel their sting. I know it's not the right thing to do, but I did everything I could to encourage them to sting me. 

I ate honey before I put my suit on, lots of it, so the scent was on my mouth. 
I lit my smoker out of habit, but left it on the table by the house. I was rude and didn't tell them hello. 
I knocked on the side of the hive with my fist to stir them up, which it did.
I rolled up the sleeves of my suit and went without gloves, and they crawled all over my skin.
I blew into the open hive box with my honey-scented breath, over and over and over.
I stole a box of their precious treasure.
And I whispered to them under my breath - "Sting the fuck out of me, little bees. Please. I need it today."

And do you know what happened?  Nothing.  Not one sting. I wanted to feel it so badly, and they didn't give in despite all of my pleading and abuse.

I know that there is a lesson here for me. I'm just unsure what it is they are trying to teach me. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

'The Secret Life of Bees'

"At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.  I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest.  The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

During the day I heard them tunneling through the walls of my bedroom, sounding like a radio tuned to static in the next room, and I imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let Honey Spill in Infinite Tongues

As if I needed another reason to love him madly, I stumbled upon this treasure today...

by Pablo Neruda

Multitude of bees!
In and out of the crimson, the blue, the yellow,
of the softest softness in the world;
you tumble headlong into a corolla to conduct your business,
and emerge wearing a golden suit
and quantities of yellow boots.

The waist, perfect,
the abdomen striped with dark bars,
the tiny, ever-busy head,
the wings, newly made of water;
you enter every sweet-scented window,
open silken doors,
penetrate the bridal chamber of the most fragrant love,
discover a drop of diamond dew,
and from every house you visit you remove honey,
rich and heavy honey, thick aroma,
liquid, guttering light,
until you return to your communal palace
and on its gothic parapets
deposit the product of flower and flight,
the seraphic and secret nuptial sun!
Multitude of bees!
Sacred elevation of unity,
seething schoolhouse.

Buzzing, noisy workers process the nectar,
swiftly exchanging drops of ambrosia;
it is summer siesta in the green solitudes of Osorno.
High above, the sun casts its spears into the snow,
volcanoes glisten,
land stretches endless as the sea,
space is blue,
but something trembles,
it is the fiery heart of summer,
the honeyed heart multiplied,
the buzzing bee,
the crackling honeycomb of flight and gold!

purest laborers, ogival workers,
fine, flashing proletariat,
perfect, daring militia
that in combat attack with suicidal sting;
buzz above the earth’s endowments,
family of gold, multitude of the wind,
shake the fire from the flowers,
thirst from the stamens,
the sharp,
aromatic thread that stitches together the days,
and propagate honey,
passing over humid continents,
the most distant islands of the western sky.

let the wax erect green statues,
let honey spill in infinite tongues,
let the ocean be a beehive,
the earth tower and tunic of flowers,
and the world a waterfall, a comet’s tail,
a never-ending wealth of honeycombs!
- Margaret Sayers Peden translation

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Damn, It's Hot!

It was over 100 degrees, and my bees were as angry as me.  Look at their blurry little wings fanning the entrance.  They were equally mad about me stealing some of their honey.

My cute little 8-frame bee escape boards did their job...

...and now I have removed my first two finished supers of honey to store in the garage until extraction day.  The plastic and duct tape make this scene look almost criminal (I miss you, Dexter!), but I swear it's just to keep the bees out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hive Inspection - Late July

I checked in on my hives last weekend.  They are filling up the honey supers so fast right now and I need to stay on top of it.  This is a foundationless frame that they are still drawing out.  If you look closely you can see the horizontal wiring.  They incorporate it beautifully into their comb, making it stronger for extracting.  Organic loveliness. 

They are not finished with this one yet, but I have observed that in general they make much larger communication holes on the bottoms of foundationless frames than they do when given foundation.  Do they just prefer not to waste time chewing out foundation?  Sometimes the only attachment points are on the sides of the frames, with the bottom left completely open.  Look at the beautiful orange propolis on the top bar of the frame.  That stuff is so resinous and sticky it will stay on your fingers for days.
Pulling up a really heavy, pure white frame like this still takes my breath away. Beauty in simplicity.  Yet imagine the treasure hidden beneath...
It was a tight squeeze, and this was the first frame I pulled out.  Equal parts exciting and unfortunate.  I wanted to sink my teeth into that, black bear style.
And now this....I lifted the bottom-most honey super, the one that sits directly on top of the queen excluder.  And there was a lovely sucking/pulling sound.  This is why.  I scraped up all of this, making a mess and dripping honey all over myself, the bees, and the hive.  It was an absolute honey frenzy for everyone involved.  There was probably a better way to do it, but I am a novice who always makes giant mistakes when no one is around to see.
A frame from the top brood box (below the queen excluder).  Only two frames had brood, the rest of the box was solid capped honey.  This frame is incredibly honey bound.  Look at the variety of pollen sources these bees were bringing in!  I love to see that rainbow pattern. 

By the way, there is NO WAY I would be able to lift a 10-frame box full of honey.  I'm eternally grateful I went the way of the 8-frame hive.  I would recommend them to all female beekeepers. Nothing against my fellow girls, but those things are HEAVY!
A first-year hive, from package bees, tended by a first-time beekeeper.  Wow!  Beyond all my expectations.  I must have a good mentor :)
Speaking of that, look what he gave me the other day....three full boxes worth of old, fully-drawn comb.  They need to be cleaned out by bees and tidied up a bit, but I want to set up more hives next spring and I won't turn down free equipment, no matter the condition! 
Here are the bees at work cleaning up one of those second-hand boxes for me.  Probably not a good idea to encourage robbing this time of year, but we'll see what happens.  I really do learn from making lots of mistakes.  For instance, I left the other two boxes uncovered in the garage next to my boy's bicycles with the garage door open.  MISTAKE.