A taste of honey
A day in the life of Denny, the bee wrangler
Summer country life means "the easy life" according to some, but living in rural areas necessitates discipline and focus for projects outside of the workplace that keep people fulfilled. There is no shortage of things to do in Vermont. A fair number of people think outside the box, like our neighbor Denny. A veritable renaissance man, Denny is an expert wood craftsman, an inventor with a penchant for unusual gadgets and a beekeeper par excellence. His honey is snapped up very quickly whenever available. The honey is made with love and respect for the bee hives he keeps near his home. His Svengali influence keeps the bees producing; they take from local flowers and thrive on their natural environment.
A bit about the process
The hives are wooden boxes divided by means of a metal grid into an upper (honey) chamber and a lower (brood) chamber. Just above the floor and above the grid are racks of horizontal metal bars. Frames that hold the hanging honeycombs slide onto the racks.
An average bee colony produces approximately 35 lb (15.8 kgs) of honey each year. Colonies are divided by a three-tier organization of labor: 50,000-70,000 workers, one queen, and 2,000 drones. Worker bees only live for three to six weeks, each one collecting about one teaspoon of nectar. One pound (0.454 kg)of honey requires 4 lb (1.8 kg) of nectar, which requires two million flowers to collect.
To remove the honeycombs, the beekeeper usually dons a veiled helmet and protective gloves. On the day of my visit, Denny wore no protective wear at all. He explained that he was not removing combs and they seemed quite tame. I was still advised to wear light colored clothing and not move around too much. Of note, there are several methods for removing the combs. The beekeeper may simply sweep the bees off the combs and guide them back into the hive. Alternately, the beekeeper can inject a puff of smoke into the hive. The bees, sensing the presence of fire, gorge themselves on honey in an attempt to take as much as they can with them before fleeing. Somewhat tranquilized by engorgement, the bees are less likely to sting when the hive is opened. Another method Denny prefers is to just shake a few boxes of honeycombs and then brush the bees off with a bee brush, frame by frame. He uses a spray aptly named "BeeQuick", to shoo the bees away quickly.
Looking back at my photos, it was hard to believe I was so close to the hives and had no fear of all those crawling creatures whatsoever, partly because Denny's calm demeanor and a handy smoker. A few puffs kept them nicely sedated and safely at bay!
I took many pictures of the bees and the hives, which I hope you will enjoy. How very sweet it is...