Friday, December 29, 2006

Home for the Bees [CCR]

Mom and Dad always kept farm animals around, partly for our education and partly to fulfill some family needs. Dad gathered some old logs and built a barn in a small pasture behind our house. We also had a lower pasture where the animals could graze. There are many tales I can share about the cows, horses, and goats. But the one critter that comes to mind today are the bees.

Throughout my childhood our family had an interest in bee keeping. Mom told me that Dad acquired a hive of bees last summer who decided to move into one of the old bee hives on their own accord. Dad had given up bee keeping for some years now, but I don’t think the bees have given up on Dad. That was the assumption until Dad checked the new residents out for their share of honey. The bees had honey in their own section but had chosen to not fill the sections of the hive where Dad collects the honey. They have taken advantage of a free residence.

As a child I can remember the family gathering at Granddaddy Daily’s house for robbing a bee tree. Wild bees built their homes in the hollow areas of trees. Someone in the family might see some bees gathering the pollen for their day’s work and they followed the bees back to their hive in the tree. You might think it cruel, but those bees could find a new home. The family’s intention was to cut the tree and rob the honey. In these cases the stance of the bees towards the robbers was purely random. Sometimes we came upon bees who forfeited their collection easily. Other times we had a rather interesting fight for the honey. The brave entered the battle with only a smoker and a loose fitting bee hat. The others taped down and sealed themselves from the possible onslaught. After the tree came down and the honey gathered, the wives often treated the wounded from the battle and processed the loot.

Dad decided to build bee hives at the house that were both accommodating for the bees permitted the humans to collect a share for their good. Thus began a working relationship that lasted many years at our home. At first the hives sat in the yard near the house. My sister and I suffered the occasional bee sting when we unintentionally interrupted the workers from their chores. Later Dad moved the hives down to the lower pasture which provided a safer distance for the humans. However, it took only one bump of a hive by one pony for the animals to quickly discover their new associates in the pasture. The animals gained a new respect for each other and shared territories for the remainder of my childhood years.

In the summer Dad would dress up in his bee visitation attire and carry the old smoker down to the hives to gather our share of the honey which we considered the rent. He lost his help from me as a small child when a bee helped us discover that cotton gloves weren’t the best choice for bee visitations. Dad would bring the racks of golden honey to the house where Mom used knives to cut away the liquid filled comb. In our house honey comb was considered a luxury, but many people who came by to get a quart of our harvest often preferred the honey strained from the comb. And thus we replenished our supply of sweetener for another year.

Dad became quite renown in bee keeping and often received a call to retrieve a rogue swarm from an unwelcome location. Our collection of hives grew to over a dozen at one time. But as my sister and I left for our own adventures Dad slowly retired from the hobby. It seems his new tenants want Dad to revive the sideline. I have a small piece of advice for the new residents. If they wish to retain the nice quarters and Dad’s watchful protection they should pay the rent. Once again the house will be buzzing with the commotion of collecting sweet golden honey.