Abejas

The honeycomb was attached to the lid of the outhouse.
The honeycomb was attached to the lid of the outhouse. Here is the old lid being placed in the new box.

The call of the bees reached us again. I think they are communicating with us. Last year we told ourselves we were bringing bee veils back to Mexico so we could help neighbors with bees and maybe start our own bee factory. Did we get our act together and get the veils? No. Death, hospitals, cross-country trips and work got in the way. Dreams of bee keeping trickled away while we dealt with the daily grind.

Since we are only a week from departure I was thinking, “Well I guess we didn’t need the veils after all.” Not one swarm our misguided hive crossed our paths this winter. All previous seasons in Mexico we’ve had bees to manage and none had been found this year. Last week Burt heard a swarm fly by but he didn’t see it. I was sad about this and wondered if we should get bee gear for next year. Sunday I bumped into friends at a local farmer’s market. The first words out of their mouths were: There’s bees in our outhouse. Not a typical Sunday morning greeting but I was happy to hear the words. The bees must be directing our thoughts. Nora and Peter had no idea Burt was a bee keeper but I filled them in and said we’d try to help them save the bees and clean up their poop station.  They camp on property near here as a retreat from their jobs in La Paz. While they were away working a swarm of bees found their quiet outhouse and started building. A nearby vender overheard the three of talking about the bees and my lamentations of why oh why didn’t we buy veils and offered to loan his bee veil. The bees were really in charge.

This hive turned out to be very amiable and had built its home on the lid of the latrine. The combs all hung off the crapper lid. All we needed was a new box to hold the old lid and a new lid for the old box. Burt used some scrap wood and built a tidy box with a front porch (the gap the bees use to go in and out of the hive) and we headed over at dusk to make the move.

Some smoke was applied to calm or confuse the bees but these bees were so mild mannered I stood in their midst and took photos freely. Burt gently lifted the old lid and put it on the new box. He then reached into the latrine and scooped out handfuls of bees and placed them on the box’s front porch. The bees went into their new home. You could see them crawl in. It was over in a few minutes. Happy faces all around. Woohoo. We made plans to pick up the hive in a few days and locate it in our yard. Pizza and beers were shared around the camp fire.

This morning the bees were gone. They swarmed away. They weren’t in the new box or the old latrine. We’re mildly sad and pretty happy. We guess the new hive decided didn’t like the new spot and set out as a group (a swarm) to find something better. We’re sad because we have no bees but we’re happy because these bees are alive living in the wild and there is not risk of stings on personal equipment when using the facilities. So we’re calling this a success. And the bees are in charge.

Burt in a borrowed veil.
Burt in a borrowed veil.

 

 

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Beekeeping

The bee man of Pescadero.
The bee man of Elias Calles

We had a minor bee problem up here in Pescadero Heights. A small swarm had taken up residence in the palapa next door. The cabinet housing the solar system’s batteries was the perfect place to build a new hive and fill it with honey, if you were a bee. Humans needing to access the cabinet weren’t too excited. Janet asked Burt, resident former apiarist, his advice. Without tools for safe bee handling there was nothing fun Burt could do. He suggested leaving them to live in peace or eradication.  With no actual humans living under the palapa there was no rush to make a decision. This was the third bee swarm or hive we’d seen in just a couple of months. Dreams of having a honey producing hive filled my head. Burt was ready to make the commitment. Bees in Mexico, unlike Montana, can survive a long time without care. Burt and I made plans to bring a hive and bee protection for next year. If this hive was still around we hoped to safely remove it next season and start our first honey operation.

Word of the bees got going through the palapa grapevine and the next thing we knew a competent local was on the scene. Ing. Jesus Antonio Geraldo from Elias Calles has been keeping bees for over 15 years. At one point he had 40+ hives (colmenas in spanish).  Currently he has 10 active hives.  Just at sunset, when the bees are heading to bed, Sr. Geraldo gently and thoroughly removed the hive from its home in the cabinet and placed them in a new hive. The new hive (a wooden box with frames that help the bees build orderly honeycombs) was left in place for a day so the bees would all come home to it and then the new hive was removed to a new location. Bees are very important  pollinators for the variety of crops grown in the area.  Sr. Geraldo shared his deep satisfaction and love for the work.  His work only left me more inspired to bring a hive or two down and start keeping bees up here. If I can’t have chickens at least I’ll have some bees. All photos and most fact finding for this post came from our neighbor Janet. Additional reportage by Burt. I was indisposed during the bee transfer.

Panal or honeycomb
Panal or honeycomb. The slats of wood are the new hive.
Honey is life
Honey is life

 

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