At sunrise, the scent of Tall Goldenrod emits from my beehive. Now with October’s chill, a few early risers fly out of the hive’s honeyed mouth to forage. I put my ear to the top box and listen, plan to draw off honey next week.
Since mid-May, the nucleus of bees I bought for $200 from the most remarkable apiarist I’ve ever met have multiplied nicely. Thankfully, no swarm this past summer. Several yellow jackets killed a honeybee here and there. And I rescued bees when the wasps showed up.
The hive thrived.
However, as my beekeeping experience goes, my residents have not followed house rules. Rather than making honey and capping it evenly with wax in the frame, they built burr comb instead.
Not just in empty corners or spaces larger than 3/8 of an inch. Experts say the apis mellifera make burr comb because their DNA cannot tolerate empty spaces in their home.
When I opened my hive weeks ago, I discovered my bees had bridged all ten frames together with burr wax, some filled with honey. I removed gooey passages in attempt to inspect every frame for capped honey and brood-eggs, larvae, and pupae of the next generation.
If there’s no brood, or you kill the queen during inspection and cleaning, kiss your honeybees good-bye.
With hive tool in hand and all my strength and concentration, I attempted to sever one frame from another without causing an uprising. Although thoroughly suited, one bee usually finds her way under my veil.
I kept the smoker lit, held the frame gripper and clenched its jaws onto wood glued to a wall of the box and its neighboring frame. In disbelief of what these flying, stinging herbivores constructed with pollen and nectar, I attempted to extract the frame. Nothing doing.
“This is worth the honey,” I chanted, laid down the frame gripper and took up the hive tool again. In merciless surgery, I removed more burr comb, bees drowning in the pure food they produced.
Beekeeping books say I caused this problem by “incorrect spacing in between the frames or forgetting to return a frame during inspection. In regular inspections, you can see burr comb when bees begin to build it.”
Well, I’d left no spaces between the ten frames and returned them all during inspections. Yet, the bees had built burr bridges and tunnels bonding the top box to the one under it, making it impossible to lift.
As I resolved years ago, I apply myself to apiculture to the best of my ability because it’s about devotion to good health and honey. Particularly raw goldenrod.
I prefer the darker amber color and flavor of Tall Goldenrod honey to the lighter color and flavor of the clover variety. Some beekeepers and consumers consider the trace of licorice in goldenrod undesirable.
Not I, dear Reader. Whatever the ladies offer, I gladly bottle, consume, and give away.
Antioxidants from the worker bee who gathers pollen and nectar from October’s honeyed mouth.
Contact Iris at email@example.com.