Monday, August 24, 2009

Bee Hunting,Ouch

Here is a great idea for a family outing if you are located near a little open space. The gear necessary are a box something like a cigar box with cover, an 8 ounce drinking glass, a sapling sharpened at one end to stick in the earth with a crotch of branches that will hold the box at the other. A small container of sugar water, a mesh of wire for the bottom of the box and you are ready. Of course if you have some honey comb for the bottom of the box it would be more professional. Pack your lunch for a picnic and pile the family into the car to go bee hunting.
Most everywhere has wild flowers and remote houses have flowers that honey bees enjoy. You must ask someone to show you what a honey bee looks like. Stick the stick in the ground in an open area and place the box, open with half an inch or so of the sugar water in the bottom for the bees to eat as they keep dry on the mesh or honey comb. Locate a honey bee and with the drinking glass place it over the bee and your open hand and take it to the box. Place the glass with the opening down on the mesh with the sugar water and wait until the bee discovers the treasure in the bottom of the box. It is obvious that the bee is drinking until full and ready to fly home. Have your family sit where they can watch the bee as it flies up and circles before heading in the bee line they talk about. Make note of the time because, if it takes more than six minutes get another bee to watch. The bee returns with a helper or two and when they start to drink you close the box and head in the direction the first bee headed when you watched it go.
Don't go too far, perhaps a hundred paces and set up your stick and the box, open it and sit around waiting to spot a satisfied bee crawl to the edge of the box and take off. It's not the easiest thing to keep your eye on a circulating bee and if you loose it just wait until there is a repeat performance and again close the box and head on the bee line. Soon there will be many bees searching for the source of the sugar water. You know how straight a bee line is but the bee has not had the education we humans have so the bee flies a distance and decides his line will veer off one way or another. If you follow your bee line and pass the bees turning point the returning bee will follow its bee line back and miss your bee line station. Back to the chase. When nearing the location of the hive you may find quite a number of bees heading for the treasure. It's not unlike humans with a gold rush. One such hunt our family had was in an old cow pasture and the hive was in an old apple tree. The food at the picnic site was a little old when we sat down to enjoy it and to discuss our next move. We would get permission to cut the old tree down and take the part with the hive home and settle it at the back of our garden. My sister had other plans so Mother and Dad and I tackled the job. After dark so that the bees would be home Dad sealed the holes and he and I cut the tree down with a two man saw and as much above the entrance we guessed the inside cavern extended. It was a pretty good size part of the trunk and not a light load. Dad cut a couple of saplings and nailed them alongside the trunk and he took one end and Mother and I took the other and carried it stretcher fashioned a mile or so back to the pickup. That was the most difficult experience muscle-wise of my life. Before or after. We placed the huge log at the back of the garden and Dad arranged an empty bee hive so that the wild bees left their hive and their queen through the commercial hive and eventually the queen decided she liked her new quarters and settled down. I might have added the fact that all the exits of the apple tree were not blocked and all of us were stung many times. I am reminded of the old rime, "MAUD MILLER ON A SUMMERS DAY WATCHED THE HIRED MAN MAKE HAY WHEN IN HER GLEE A BEE CRAWLED UP HIS PANTS LEG BUT THE HIRED MAN LAUGHED WELL IN HIS TURN WHEN A GRASSHOPPER CRAWLED UP HERN." At least that's how I recall it. Incidentally the bee searching can sting but I have never heard of one stinging in a drinking glass. It's all interested in escaping, not in protecting anything.

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