Mentoring Sarah the Beekeeper

| 2/9/2015 9:27:00 AM


Sarah is suited up and ready to get into her own hive of bees for the first time. I'd helped her and her husband move the bees from one of my yards to their new farm last fall. Now it's a warm, late-winter day, and she is going to peek in long enough to see how they're doing, reverse the 2 deep boxes, and make sure they have enough honey left in the shallow top box to make it through the rest of the winter. I am there to talk her through it. Her excitement is palpable--and contagious. Watching her brings back memories of the first heart-pounding time that I opened a beehive, almost 10 years ago.

I was with my mentor, Steve. I had bartered a summer of my Saturdays to help him in his bee yards in exchange for learning the craft. I had just pried the top cover loose with my new hive tool, pulled it up, and set it aside. The bees roiled up out of the hive and flew in a cloud around us. I was excited but unafraid. Then as I went to remove the inner cover, I saw a teeny little spider and instinctively jumped back and screamed! Steve laughed so hard that it was hard for me to understand what he was saying, but it was something like, "You have thousands of bees flying all around your head, and you're afraid of a little spider?" I felt very foolish, but I lost my fear of spiders that day.

Sarah is a trooper. She gingerly pries the top cover loose, and when the bees come flying out, she stands her ground, asking me what to do with the cover she's holding. I tell her to set it on the ground upside down and that we'll use it to set the other hive parts on as we work.

I talk, she asks questions, and I talk some more. She removes the top shallow super and sets it aside. When I ask, she said yes the box feels heavy and that she thinks there is honey in it. Indeed when I look, three frames of capped honey remain in the shallow box.

When she removes this shallow box, we can see the top of the brood chamber, which is covered with bees. It's always a relief to see so many bees in a hive this time of year! The bees fly about us, but do not try to sting us through our suits. Sarah pries the brood chamber from the remaining deep box. It is heavy with bees and honey, and she sets it on top of the shallow box, which is on top of the overturned outer cover. As expected, the bottom box is empty. The bees have moved up over the winter.

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