Friday, September 07, 2007

Bees and Honey

I'm not sure what it is in the air that says "late summer." The relaxing drone of the crickets, the rattling of the poplar leaves that sounds like constant rain, the sun a little lower in the sky at midday. But here, above all, it's the scent of honey in the air. Even if I never harvested honey, I'd want to keep bees just for that scent.

A week or so ago I used these pieces and tools to make this new section for my beehive. Frankly, the bees could manage just fine without my help. But if I give them these wax frames, they can spend more of their time making honey instead of wax. And they'll make it in neat rows that make it easier for me to handle. If the weather is good, they'll make more honey than they need for the winter and I can take some.

I've been using the last of the honey I harvested years ago (honey keeps forever) to sweeten the syrup I'm using to can the delicious, locally grown peaches I bought at BB Farms on Route 13 near NYSEG. Goldenrod honey has a stronger flavor than most people are used to. It's a flavor that says, "This is definitely honey, not sugar." To me it says, "Extra special home-canned peaches."

I like "my" honeybees and I'm often disappointed with people's casual references to bees as a nuisance. I'll hear it most often this time of year when yellow jackets are so active. Let's get this straight, friends. Yellow jackets are not bees. In fact, all wasps are "not bees." Stirred Not Shaken has a couple of good pictures - one bee and one "not bee."

You may remember the term "wasp waisted" describing tightly corseted Victorian women. It comes from the fact that wasps' abdomens appear barely connected to their thoraxes (chests) by a very, very thin "waist." (photo credit: Whispers in Nature)

Bees, like me, are pretty substantial around the middle. Once you've got this shape distinction clear, don't forget there are bumble bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and more in addition to honeybees. (photo credit: State of North Carolina)

Under the "nuisance" heading, I might note that wasps can sting repeatedly. Bees generally die when they sting. So they don't do it casually. In fact, in thirty years of beekeeping, I've only been stung by a honeybee once. I don't believe I've ever been stung by any other kind of bee. But I seem to get wasp stings every year.

In their defense, wasps, like bees, are important pollinators. And unlike bees, they feed insects to their larvae. Anyway, with the general understanding that everybody's just tryin' to make a living, I'll live and let live with wasps.

1 comment:

leendaluu said...

See, I learned something today! Now I'm going to get my spray and tackle wasps! not bees.

Bee good. Bee Happy.