13 November 2013

messy transporation

Yester-day, Melchizedek helped me build three more top-bar hives and being eleven years young, his building skills are quite impressive. He taught me to hit the nail straight and head-on to avoid bending. Also to start hitting the nail lightly and slowly, then add more power gradually.

Kwao and I wove through the mountains towards Kingston to help a woman by the name of Letecia prepare and load about thirty hives in two different apiaries onto a dump truck. It was a long and messy day. We arrived around noon at an empty parking lot with wandering goats and dogs. Letecia led us on through the thick bush where an apiary opened up before us. Three other beekeepers were already hammering small strips of wood agains the sides of the hives so the boxes wouldn't shift during the move. Leteca, Kwao and I went around the apiary tightly stapling screens on the tops of the hives so if the roofs happened to shift or fall off, the bees would still be contained. With an apparent  nectar flow in the area, the bees were doing really well for being filled with drones, honey and impressive burr comb. There are fourteen different parishes in Jamaica and they each have a different climate.  

Before we loaded up back into the trucks, we snacked on a small white comb filled with nectar. It was sweet and spicy enough to create a burning sensation on Kwao's lips. Since Leteca treats her hives, it's likely that the chemicals caused the strange sensations and flavor. The wax combs are similar to a liver for it serves to capture natural environment contaminates and protects the colony in the process. But when man-made chemicals and anything that is not naturally exposed to the hive is introduced, the wax stores the chemicals and ends up constantly re-exposing the colonies over time. The older the combs are, the more toxic the hive becomes. The balance of nature allows for the old combs to be destroyed through wax moths, allowing the bees to build new, uncontaminated combs. Beekeepers are encouraged to cycle out the combs regularly to minimize the contamination that affects the hive's health.

We then wound through some more thick mountain roads to the second apiary which was further into the bush than the first. After hammering and stapling, we started to carry cinder blocks to the truck and as the sun began to set we started stuffing the hive entrances with rolled-up newspaper. The problem here is that during the day, all of the older forager bees are out in the fields. There was still plenty of daylight hours left and when we started packing the boxes into the hives, one-by-one, the forager bees were circling the blank space that used to be their hive, confused and angry. They eventually started to cluster the ground. When we moved one of the biggest hives, the boxes shifted and the bees poured out. Most of them went back to their hive's original location but some stuck nearby, attracted to its scents. With enraged foragers circling the blank space, we moved another hive in the same space in hopes to gather the foragers.

By dusk, the second apiary was stacked in the truck and we headed back to the first. The moon-light illuminated most of the darkness. At night, honeybees usually won't fly but rather crawl in a very scattered and jittery way. For this reason, flashlights were used sparingly to avoid attracting the bees  towards it. As the entrances were being newspaper-stuffed, two small hives resting on top a top-bar hive flipped forward. Boy were those bees angry! We managed to flip the boxes back upward and smoked them heavily to chase them back into their hives so we could box them up and load them into the truck. We got back to the farm at eleven at night, dog-tired.

With the lack of organization and preparation, it took almost twelve hours to just load up thirty or so colonies. At the end, the boxes were getting thrown around and many bees were killed - it started to feel very wicked but it was a great learning experience. There's a lot that I would have done differently such as waiting until dark to block off the entrances to not leave the hordes of foragers behind who will just cluster in the grass and die and to prepare better by having more than one smoker to share between five beekeepers.

Regardless of the messiness, I liked getting the perspective of an entirely different beekeeper’s apiary and getting a good work-out! I enjoyed working with Leteca who has been beekeeping for six years and is now the president of the Kingston Beekeeping Association. She is collaborating with a homeopathic doctor in hopes to establish an organic apiary.

No comments :

Post a Comment