Sunday, February 6, 2011

Colouring Outside the Lines: All Things Bees

As some of you may or may not know, my Dad is a bee guru. That's him there, doing what he loves to do best. Bee keep. I spent a lot of my childhood avoiding the back section of our yard for fear of bee-stings from his many beehives. And boy have my sisters and I had our share of those stings. Mum would always get grumpy at the bee poo all over the sheets on the washing line. Dad eventually caved and moved his hives off site, and now has them scattered all over various places in Wellington.

I've always had a love hate relationship with those bees. The idea of creating a scrumptious product in a very natural way has always been intriguing, but I've watched way too many horror films of killer bee swarms to warrant showing much more of an interest. When I was little I would go as far as helping Dad to spin the honey comb frames in the extractor machine to collect the honey, and that was about it.

A couple of months ago, Dad became interested in a new hiving method, called a top bar hive, as opposed to those multi coloured boxes that we see on rural roadsides around the place. This method encourages the bees to create their own comb, instead of using the man made wax comb provided by a beekeeper in a standard hive. The frames hang inside the hive in such a way that the comb is formed in a natural 'V' or teardrop shape - essentially letting the bees form it to whatever shape they would like! This idea is gaining massive popularity as more and more people are looking to find the most natural way of producing honey as possible, and by letting the bees create their own comb, it is a big step in that direction. It's really fascinating stuff!

So Dad has harnessed this interest, and set about building a top bar hive. Today his new bee colony moved in. I decided to harden up, step outside my comfort zone and follow along. And I lasted pretty well, standing only a couple of metres from the hive taking photos, until a bunch of bees decided I was more interesting then their new home, and began crawling down my neck. That's when I ran, arms flailing in the opposite direction. But I'm still determined to keep following Dad's progress, so there will be more to come in the future!


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