Friday, December 2, 2011

Summer Blends Into Fall or BEES!

I fell in love with tens of thousands of insects this evening.  It wasn't just the bees though, it was the melding of perfect weather with my fascination with the honeybees that I keep. It created a moment in which time stood still and I was the same as a beekeeper was thousands of years ago, the time between those two moments did not exist and it might as well have been one in the same.  I sat mesmerized for an hour watching and learning.
Today was one of those days, those perfect late summer days that blend into fall.  It was full of warm sunshine yet there was that chill in the air, and the changing light, that made one feel cozy and long for wearing a  sweater.  It was a perfect day for football, GO BILLS!, and apple picking I suppose.  And watching bees.  This is really a perfect time of year.  I suppose that if I had to choose one weather all the time, it would be this.  Not too cold, not too warm.  Autumn's here summer, say your goodbyes.  It's okay if you want hang on for a bit.  We're not quite ready to let go but that sweater that is fall, sure is cozy.
As summer nears its end our honeybees have never been busier.  You see this is the first time, that this young hive (started it in April of this year) has been drunk on Goldenrod.  This time of year, for honeybees in the Northeast, is the equivalent of not just one buffet but a buffet consisting of all your favorite restaurants all in one place (bees having a 3 mile radius territory) serving exactly what you most crave, all the time, for weeks on end.  It's the equivalent of a billionaire having so much money that they don't know wuite what to do with all of it.  In a honeybee hive's territory there is so much goldenrod that they could never use it all. 
Goldenrod is the first flower (see photo above), of such hefty quantity, that is producing nectar since July.  There has been no honey being produced in this area until now.  Clover honey I believe is more of a spring/early summer honey.  Bees need nectar in order to produce honey, in the process of getting the nectar they also collect pollin to help cross pollinate flowers and also to bring back to the hive.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, without bees humans would not exist.  They are that important. 

The bees ingest the nectar and take it back to the hive where they chew on it for a bit and then 'spit' it out into the comb.  The nectar is 75-80% water and 20-25% sugar.  The bees then fan the nectar with their wings within the hive to dry it out until the percentages swap so that the sugar content is then 75-80% of the product and only 20-25% water....this my friend's is honey.  As one approaches the hive it reeks of the sweet smell of nectar turning into honey.  It is intoxicating.
I took advantage of the sublime weather today and sat next to the hive for a good hour, just watching.  I opened it briefly to inspect the production and status of the hive.  They have only just begun to use the top "super" where honey is produced but they are working hard.  While I didn't open the lower "brood" boxes where new bees are made I am quite certain that they are making honey in there as well which will feed them for the winter.  This is for sure where that rich smell is coming from.  All looked good so I decided to watch the activity in and out of the hive and directly on what I like to call the "front porch."
It was mindblowing and mesmerizing to say the least.  I can only describe the amount of bee air traffic in and out of the hive as all airport plane traffic at all airports at given time, combined into one.  I love changing my focus from looking at the hive entrance up close to the air surrounding the front of the hive.  It is then that you really get to appreciate the amount of traffic.  It is never ending as bees come and go arriving with their payload.  It appears to be non stop.  Busy is an understatement.  Hardworking doesn't quite cut it.  Each bee knows exactly what needs to be done with each having a unique job that is a small part of the whole.  I couldn't stop watching it.  I was in a way falling in love with this amazing and tiny creatures.  What sealed the deal is when I saw one bee in particular pick up a dead bumblebee that was probably ten times its size and carried it off the front porch and up a blade of grass to get this intruder out. WOW!  I had to pry myself away because there was other stuff to do.

 PS: As I write this I have stopped quite a few times to put my hand on Sarah's ever growing belly where she too, much like the hard working bees, has been hard at work tenderly growing our son.  We have 4 weeks left until his arrival and boy was he active tonight.  It may have had something to do with the vanilla ice cream, strawberries and yes, ironically or coincidentally, honey on top.  Not our honey yet, but he was diggin' it!

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