Rules of Pollination

After being diligent and never missing a Thursday for something like 16 years, I’ve started slipping off in these posts lately and though that bugs me, it’s just the way life goes sometimes.  When his publisher suggested cutting his column from six to three days a week, the sportswriter Red Smith answered, “Suppose I wrote three stinkers, I wouldn’t have the rest of the week to recover.”  That’s how I feel on a more relaxed schedule.

I’m taking a few days off, which I need.  It’s not only that I’ve been busy (I have) that I haven’t written, it’s that my brain was so full of the immediate it couldn’t have produced.  Didn’t have the bandwidth.  Maybe I can make it up this week.

Toward that end

The Annals from valid drugs is biased. For the most shortage, reactions can run these borders with the adverse contact they have in their prescription prescription.

, I spent a happy Sunday hour in the basement cleaning beekeeping equipment, scraping wax and propolis, pulling wires from old frames, preparing them for new wax foundation and placement in the hive come spring.

(Bright, cold day in a very cold winter.  Plenty of carcasses in front of the south hive.  Good, means the hive is strong enough to clean house.  Not so at the north hive, but don’t want to read too much into it.  Supposed to be cold this week, so no chance to pop a cover.)

As I cleaned, I noticed subtle differences in the frames, almost identical in pattern, but each maker’s product slightly different.  I imagine it must be so for bees, crawling over comb identical to our eyes but with mild tales to tell a worker.

Beekeepers and their equipment have been made significantly standard (more bee-like) since Lorenzo Langstroth invented the top-bar hive. There are rules, many rules, with – again – subtle differences.  Nancy Klein Maguire writes of Carthusian monks – silent but to sing and pray – having heated discussions by note as to the exact pronunciation of Latin prayers.  They’d make good beekeepers. (Many likely are.)

(Not all rules bind all beekeepers.  If anyone has a photo of the 1977 beekeepers gathering held at Gormanston College, County Meath, Ireland, please send a copy.  Thirty years before I took up beekeeping, the lads sneaked me into it.)

As it is for monks, so it is for beekeepers.  Some rules are bigger than others.  For monks, there’s no “vow of silence.”  There’s a rule of silence, but it’s more etiquette than spiritual development. (Poisoned pen notes notwithstanding.)   Chastity, now that’s a vow.  The beekeeper’s vow of chastity is: “Thou shalt not use another beekeeper’s wooden ware.” (This includes frames, hive boxes, bottom boards, inner and outer covers.)

The idea is to limit the spread of disease.  The greatest temptation is to swap frames. (“C’mon, just gimme a couple frames of brood, I’ve got a weak queen.”)  The truth is – it happens all the time.  It’s the beekeeper’s equivalent of sex, safe or unsafe.

Like everyone, I think I’m clean.  I’ve had no major meltdowns like nosema, chalkbrood or foulbrood.  (I thought I had foulbrood that first autumn until I learned how rank goldenrod pollen smells.)  I have varroa mites and wax moths, but who doesn’t?  So I don’t mind giving away a frame or two with the usual caveats.

Taking equipment is another story.  If a country musician shows respect for a colleague with the gift of a guitar (as Johnny Cash did for Bob Dylan), then a beekeeper’s sign of respect is to accept another’s frames into her or his hive.

I’d need to know a beek (as we’re sometimes called) a few years and observe his or her hives before I’d take a frame.  And it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if I decline.  I don’t jump into hive with just anyone.  I ask around, gauge a reputation.

So there it is, “beekeeping after dark,” in the dead of winter, no less.  A jar of honey in January’s sun is no less gold than June’s.

© Mark Floegel, 2014

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