This isn’t too far outside the box. It’s from notes I made while in southern Missouri a couple of weeks ago, helping Michael put on honey supers. I was there for a day and a half, and we worked about 120 hives in 8 or 9 beeyards. Lunch, wonderful lunch was at a Subway…it was an hour in heaven. At the end of the day we drove back to the hotel where we were staying, about 20 miles, in an air conditioned cab that got all the way down to 85 degrees. That, too was a bit of heaven. This is what I remember….
Geeze, it’s hot.
Rounding the corner from the shady side of the truck into the early sun’s like opening the oven door. It’s only a 6:40 AM sun but the horizon spits one of yesterday’s orange embers to do its damage all over again. It’s 94 degrees but the shadows’re still long, skinny and dark. And the wet thick air presses like a fist and immediately melds with the sweat in my eyes, on my face and arms and hands. Already my fingers are slippery but there’s not a drop of dew, no damp on the metal edge of the truck bed, not even a pebbled film on the windshield. It’s hot and it’s dry and it’s not even 7.
And it’s still. Nothing moves. It’s hard to breathe. The air’s heavy and it’s hard to suck enough in like you’re under water. And quiet. The whole world is waiting to see how hot it can get…as hot as yesterday? As humid as the day before? How hot this time? Broken records are a dime a dozen…every record’s gone by now…pushed aside by a hotter day, a humid night, a drier season.
But work’s to be done. Keep bees when the sun shines every time you can. There’s a honey flow on…how, why, from where….? Soybeans! They make honey when the rest of the world doesn’t make anything at all, when it’s the hottest there is…starting just before noon to sometime later…the hardest part of a long hot day. Fields and fields of Southern Missouri soybeans…purple and white, tall and short, oozing nectar, ready to give it away.
Light the smoker you know you won’t need. It’s calm in there just like yesterday. It’s too much work to work up a fuss and later every bee’s gone and there’s nobody home to say no. Same thing with the veil. Bees don’t mind today. To hot to move, too hot to care. And inside the veil it’s hotter still, your glasses steam and slip and slide away. Leave it on the truck, but close.
It’s only been minutes…no exertion, no running or lifting…only the drive, grab boxes off the top of the pile and the smoker …nothing hard so far but I’m soaking wet already. Across the shoulders, down both sides and on the top of my belly and around my belt. Already wet and now it’s 97 in the shade. I’m surprised the smoker even lights.
Start at the far end of the yard and meet and greet the first cover. Slow. Work the long flush side. Start with the ends then slide to the middle and lift gentle, slow. Bee glue eases, oozes like peanut butter, pulls like gum on your shoe, stretches and twines away, slow, quiet…no warning snap, no noise at all. Just sticky. Ease the cover up so it rests on one long edge…the far side if you want so you see right away, the close side if you’re not sure if the bees will care. If they do – but they won’t – they’ll go away away, not get in your way. It’s just too hot to care.
First look. Good, new honey’s coming in. The bottom’s full ‘cause there’s new wax on the topbars. Quick, move a honey-filled frame, maybe two from below, stick in an empty from the new honey box, ‘cause the queen’s just gotta have room. Put the honey in the middle of the new honey box so they know what to do…honey up here… babies below. But they gotta-haveta do it…babies below, honey up there. Keep the queen down …add a filter, a way to say no. Exclude ‘er.
Every hive needs checked from far to near. Lift the cover, look and see, pull two full frames, put empties in for the queen, add the excluder, put the honey from below into the new box on top, put the box on the excluder, straighten and neaten, cover on, move on. Every one almost the same. It is what it is what it should be.
After the first eight hives the sun’s in the sky, shadows’re gone. Metal migrant covers too hot to touch or set things on. Don’t put supers flat on those covers or you fuse the wax coated bottoms to the too-hot top. Major rule number one…no sticky tops!
Be careful of that stack of excluders …so hot that old wax melts, drips through the wires in a puddle on the truck bed beneath…don’t touch. Lift with the hive tool…but don’t twist or bend the wires. Touch that grid and it’ll stick and burn you sure as heck. And where does your hive tool go to keep cool? Not on the bed. Not on a lid. Not in your pocket. Where oh were should a hive tool go? Set it down but don’t pick it up. It’s covered with a film of liquid wax that’ll stick to your hand and burn some more.
Just before lunch it’s 104 but the bees’ve found blossoms and they’ve gone for more. There’s crazy in the air and nobody’s home. They rush to fill the new added space. It’s a honey flow! A golden money honey flow! And time to find a cool place to rest, to eat and dry and recharge. Inside, away from the outside.
Geeze, it’s hot.