HUNTING WILD BEE TREES THE OLD WAY

BIG BOTTOM COUNTRY ADVENTURES IN NATURE

“Granddad, where is the honey to put on my hot cake?  I can’t find it anywhere in the cupboard”, said the small boyThe year was 1935 the place was the Cline Road in Randle.

“I’m sad to say that we are completely out of wild honey, Jack .  Today the two of us are going out and find some more honey”   Granddad promised.

“How can we find honey, Granddad?    Where do the wild bees live? Are we going to find their home?   Are we going to get stung?” Said little Jack, who was wild with excitement.

“Stop asking so many questions, Jack and just watch and pay attention to your old Granddad, and I will show you just how we do it.”  Expecting little Jack to stop asking questions was about like expecting  water to run uphill. Jack, who was a typical 4 year old, completely ignored his Granddad’s comment  and immediately asked another question.

“What are you going to do with that empty cigar box?”  Granddad replied,   “We are going to make a “Bee  Box ” out of it     “What is a bee box?”  Asked Jack.

Grandpa said, “We take a cigar box, cut a small hole in the lid, make a small sliding glass door on the hole.   Next we open the lid and put some empty bee comb into the box.  Then we will mix some sugar and water with a drop of anise oil  and put it into the empty  comb.”

“What is that for?”  Asked Jack  “Because the bees like the smell of anise oil and can smell it a long way off, they will follow the scent.  When they reach the box, they will go inside to get the sugar water.  We will leave the lid open until we get lots of bees in our box.”  Explained Granddad”

“OK, Granddad  lets get started,”  Jack piped up.
“Where do we go and what do we do?” Laughed the anxious little boy.    “Way out in the woods, in a maple forest, because bees make a lot of honey off the maple trees.    We are taking an old burlap sack, matches, and the bee smoker  to make the bees think there is a forest fire.   Because of the smoke, the bees become concerned with saving honey, rather than in stinging us.  We’ll take a container for the honey, an ax to chop the bee tree down, if necessary, and a small amount of white flour to mark the bees, making them easier for us to see.”  Explained Granddad.

‘Gee, it sure takes a lot to fool bees, doesn’t it,” Observed Jack.

Sitting down under a maple tree, and eating their sandwiches, they waited, with the bee box wide open.  Soon the bees were rushing in to join the bee party not realizing there is no such thing as a free lunch.

“Look, that one’s been here before”, said Grand Dad.

“But how can you tell, Grand Dad?   “Watch them after they load up on sugar water.  If they haven’t been here before, they go up high and circle around a number of times trying to get their bearings.   If they’ve been here before, they only make a half circle and then they go straight, making a “bee line” for their hive.    So now we want to get a bee line.   To do that, Jack, you close the bee box lid, and we’ll move in the direction that the bee was going.  Then we’ll sit and watch again after letting another bee out of the small hole.”

“We are getting close to them” said Grand Dad. “How do you know?  Said Jack.      “Because the bee doesn’t go high, but just goes straight to the bee tree.   We’ll get a “triangulation” by moving off to the side.   Then let another bee out, and watch where the two bee lines intersect.  That’s close to where the bee hive is located,usually in a hollow tree or stump. If it is too high to reach, we must fall the tree. Guard bees will be circling around, so we are safer if we stay in close to the hive. We’ll start up the smoker when we get close. “After getting out the honey, the two cleaned off the comb and placed it into the container all the time keeping the smoker activated.

On a hot summers day, when you bite into the bee comb, it is surprisingly cool, since   some bees bring water, and others fan with their wings, evaporating the water, thus cooling the honey.    What a treat for anyone, but especially a small boy.“If a bee stings you, take your jack knife blade and scrape the stinger out.   Do not rub or hit the bee or scratch the bite.  If you do, and bee stinger gets left in your skin. The little poison sack attached to the stinger will keep on pumping poison into you”, Granddad warned

“When we get home”, GrandDad explained, We will cut open the comb and place it in a pillow case or a flour sack  or better yet cheese cloth, and let it slowly drain into a catch pan.(today, an extractor is used) This leaves only the pure honey.  Sometimes we take a bit of honey comb and put it on our table.”The happy little boy, tired from the big bee-hunting adventure, and the cool wild honey in his stomach, was dropping off to sleep, dreaming sweet dreams.

He barely heard his Granddad say, “Tonight we will have baking powder biscuits with butter and wild honey with our dinner”