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A Hundred Gourds 1:4 September 2012
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page 15

 

Jim Sullivan - US

Keeper

I volunteer to help the beehive keeper tend the hives for a Saturday afternoon. We meet in the maintenance shack and put on the heavy canvas one-piece suits. The experienced guy tells me there is no need to worry, no bee could sting through the material. I zip up and then he places the special hat on my head – something like an old British campaign hat with mesh coming down over my face and all around my head. A zipper neatly connects the head gear to the one-piece suit. He tells me about the critical space where the head gear zipper ends and meets the canvas, right at the neck. This needs to be very tight. You do not want a bee to find it and burrow through and get inside the mesh. Gloves are the last piece of equipment.

We march out to the hives with me checking the critical space with my heavily gloved hands. The keeper brings two smokers, cans with a spout, a small bellow apparatus, and room to start a fire and produce smoke. We fill the cans with dry pine needles and get the fire going. We smoke the hive to put the bees to sleep or at least slow them down. I am hitting the bellow vigorously and thinking about the critical space. He lifts off the top of the hive and more bees drift out, they are slowed by the smoke. He calls for more smoke, he lifts out one of the frames that contains the honeycombs. Bees are hanging on. He scrapes the bees off with his glove and breaks the honeycombs off the frame and into a big bucket. I smoke the entire area, he removes more honey. I check the critical space and pump the smoke out.

toboggan ride
padding the kids
in gloves and scarves

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