Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Birds and the Bees (and the Trees)

We have had several reader questions since our last post, and we are here to oblige!

From our inquisitive nephew Ilan, down in Sydney:
How do you get the bees out of the tree and into the hive?
A picture speaks 1,000 words, or so they say, so let me see if this photo montage helps explain (because even though I watched it happen, I'm still not entirely sure how it all came together).

Mark and Drew in their oh-so-fashionable beekeeping gear. Drew is holding the top of the tree and sawing just below the swarm, while Mark holds the base to keep it all steady.

A close-up of the above.

An even closer-up of the above above.

Carefully detaching the branch from the tree.

I wish I had video of this one. Drew essentially banged the branch against the beehive just once, and all the bees just "ploomped" (technical term) into the box. That group of bees right in front didn't quite make it in, but they eventually settled down and moved in. From what I understand, the queen was in the center of all that craziness. And where the queen goes, her bees follow. So when she fell in, all the others moved in with her. After about 24 hours, Drew came back and moved the hive against the side of the house, so it gets morning sun and then afternoon shade. I don't know how he moved it all, as he took care of that at some ungodly hour of the morning (oh, say, about 8 a.m. or something on a Saturday!).

So as you can see, I don't really know how it all happened. But it did. And the bees have been happily buzzing along ever since.

Which leads us to our next question.

From Mom (as opposed to Mum) in Connecticut
How do you get the honey out of their new home now?
Good question. I don't know ... yet. All I've been told is that Drew takes out the slats (here they all are in the box. Out of the box they essentially look like manmade honeycomb).

The slats are on wooden frames and the "comb" is angled slightly (this is important, but I don't know why, exactly). He places these in what sounds like a heated centrifuge, which spins it all around and flings the honey out of the comb and down into the jars. Apparently last year he got about 5 gallons a hive (and he had 4 hives!). That's a lot of honey! And, depending on the time of year, the honey has a different flavor. Last year his early-season honey had a more citrusy flavor (YUM!), while his later-season honey tasted more like "regular" honey. Apparently it all depends on the flowers that are in bloom at different times of year.

From Auntie Karen, in beautiful, tree-laden North Caldwell:
Why did you have to take down the trees?
Well, it all started because the easiest way to get the bees out of the little 7-foot pine tree was to chop off the part where they had settled. We didn't like this tree anyway, as it was way too close to the fence (and I'm not a huge fan of pine trees unless they are "out in the wild", i.e., they look great in the Rockies).
The other tree was this big, massive, ugly juniper tree. We never liked it, as it was in a really odd spot. We weren't planning on taking it down just yet, as we were hoping some of the others we planted would grow over the next few years to provide us with a little extra shade before we cut it down. But men and chainsaws cannot be stopped, not even for little mourning doves.
Then there was the humongous mulberry tree that was growing right out of our foundation. I have no idea why the previous owners let it go for so long. It has scraped up the siding on our house and was perilously close to the electrical wiring leading into our house (oh, how I miss the buried wires of our past several homes). All quite scary when the wind starts blowing hard!
And the final pine tree was an accident. While Mark fought with the mulberry tree, he told Drew to "take out that juniper" (though he might have said "pine tree," I wasn't there). Drew thought he meant the little pine tree against the north fence, which, for the record, was also way too close to the fence. So bye-bye other pine tree.

Whew! That's the long answer. The short answer is that we didn't really like any of them, and we don't feel all that guilty, because although we have taken out a total of 6 trees, we have planted 12 (so far), plus an additional two lilac bushes and plans for at least 2 or 3 more (don't worry, Mom, we are making sure they are spaced out well enough ... we have a ridiculously large backyard). So someday we will have shade again (though that someday may be 20 years down the line).

I believe those are all the answers of late. If I missed someone, just post a comment, and I will reply, sooner or later.