It is raining hard in Southern California and while we need the rain, I miss my weekend gardening. And what I really wanted to do this weekend was check my bee hive to see how the bees are progressing, whether they need a new box with the advent of spring and whether there is enough honey to allow me to pull a frame to sample it for the first time. Opening the hive in this weather, however, can chill and kill the brood (baby bees). I did attend the monthly Backwards Beekeepers meeting, though, and prepared a new box for the hive.
A hive box is filled with empty frames (at Backwards Beekeepers, we do not buy frames built with wax because that wax is treated with chemicals that are supposed to “help” the bees. Kirk, our local bee guru, calls those types of shenanigans “unsustainable exploitation.” Since honey has been found in pharaoh’s tombs, it is apparent that the bees don’t need our assistance. In fact, the Backwards Beekeepers believe that it is man’s interference that is causing Colony Collapse Disorder – something we don’t see in our backyard hives. But I digress. . . )
Many of us prepare the frames by sticking popsicle sticks in the top slat of each frame and painting those with untreated bees wax to “glue” them in place. We do this not because the bees need our assistance to build wax comb but because when we “start” the frame for them, they usually build comb straight down. This is helpful – not for the bees – but for us to harvest the honey and check the hive. If the wax comb is built straight on the box, we can pull individual frames out without destroying the other frames – such as the frames containing brood.
A German documentary filmmaker named Roman was at the meeting today, wanting to learn about beekeeping. He helped me “paint” the wax on and, delighted, said the smell of beeswax reminded him of Christmas. He painted an idyllic picture of the rural German countryside where he grew up; where the Christmas trees are still decorated with beeswax candles. The pine box brings good memories to me as well – the smell of the freshly cut pine reminds me of happy events like Christmas and mountain hikes.