For reasons known only to themselves, my older colony of bees had decided to build its honey combs perpendicular to the rest of the comb. This was problematic since it made picking up the combs for inspection impossible, but my husband Paul and I weren’t overly worried. After all, we’d gotten the bees as a late-July swarm, and to make matters worse, I’d accidentally knocked down most of their new comb when I did my first hive inspection, leaving them only a few weeks to re-build before the onset of winter. (Hence, I imagine, their crazy architecture.)
But against all odds, they survived both my bungling and the winter, leaving a comb dilemma come spring. I didn’t want to deprive them of their stored honey until there were plenty of blooms available. So we waited until the apple trees were luminous with blossoms and the fields were blanketed with golden dandelions–good eatin’ for a bee, we figured–and we opened the hive.
Our intention was to cut out the comb, which we figured would be mostly empty after the long winter. I brought out a bowl to hold the wax, assuming that a regular mixing bowl would be more than adequate for our purposes.
But I’d underestimated my girls: the combs were as laden with honey as they were off kilter, and Paul was hard pressed to lift out the dripping chunks of comb without making a huge mess. We didn’t have milk, but our land was definitely flowing with honey.
After the operation was complete, we had a Leaning Tower of Comb that ended up filling 3 quart jars, not counting three large, pretty combs that we left intact and stored in plastic gallon bags. The honey was thin and syrupy, probably made out of the quarts of sugar water the bees had devoured voraciously the previous fall, but still, it was honey. OUR honey.
Life is full of unexpected sweetness.