Last Friday I visited my friend Darrel at his place in El Sobrante. His land was alive with inventive sustainable architecture, beautiful bamboo, and insects of course! In addition to getting a tour of all the species of bamboo on his property, I was treated to some honey straight from the comb of his beehive!
As much as I love insects, the only arthropod I have ever kept in captivity is a giant African millipede while I was in college, which I named Clarke-Nova. I have never had an “ant farm”, and have never kept bees. So I was unsure how to react when Darrel just walked over without any protective gear and started pulling up a frame with his bare hands and a knife. Don’t you need smoke? Or cool mesh-topped hats and suits? “They’re really docile,” says Darrel, “As long as you move slowly, there’s just no problem.”
He held out the frame, gently shook off a few bees at the top, then used his knife to cut out some comb. It flopped down on a cardboard box, trapping several bees underneath. I gingerly flopped it over, and allowed the frustrated workers to get out from the sticky mess. One of the hapless bees was of a caste I rarely see: a drone. Drones are the male bees, and don’t do any work, and mostly laze about until it’s time to mate. They’re slightly larger than the female workers, and have larger, almost fly-like eyes as well. They also have no stingers, so I picked him up by the scruff of his thorax, and could feel the vibrating internal wing muscles beating like a power tool as I took a closer look to his stocky build.
Setting him down with his sisters, I then treated myself to probably the best and freshest honey I’d had in years. I was hit by a full quarter cup of pure undiluted unfiltered bee vomit, and was blasted to another level of insect love as the hive swarmed over me, the workers either licking up spilled honey, or simply going about their business as if nothing was the matter. Also, no chaw ever existed that beats honeycomb. Wax from bee glands is the best!
Mmm, now I want to be covered in BEES!