What goes up must come back down – true of the mountains too. We made our annual run to the NC mountains recently to bring the girls home from their time at summer camp. This annual pilgrimage is our crazy chase for sourwood honey. If it sounds crazy, you haven’t tasted the honey. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know that bee moves always create a story. Check here and here and even here.
The most epic trip was probably the return journey last year. Who could forget the harrowing trip down the mountain with the unsecured hives? Late night trip to Walmart in bee gear? Ahh, Good times.
This year we had the car packed and ready for days. After several delays (rainy weather, sick kids) Aaron and I took the first chance we got to hit the road. We took off so fast that I managed to forget a tiny item – the fume board. With hives heavy with honey, we needed to remove the stacked honey supers (boxes) to lighten the load. [See the second hive below? Those 3 white boxes are honey supers – all honey, no baby bees. Each weighs about 50lbs. full.] The fume board is how we politely shoo bees out of the honey supers when we want to remove those boxes. Trudging around with sticky 50b. boxes is tricky enough without a cloud of confused bees following. The fume board collects dust until it’s time to pull supers.
And yeah. I forgot it. Enter my newest invention – the fume towel. A fume board is a glorified lid with felt on the underside to hold a potently scent that the bees avoid. The metal top lid is heated by the sun, diffusing the cherry/almond scent into the honey supers. (Kind of like a high school locker room where someone drops an AXE body spray bomb.) It clears the place in a hurry. Given no good options, I thought I’d try the Honey Harvester on a towel. Bingo! We steadily worked through each hive, driving the bees out of the supers and into the lower hive bodies for the move.
We piled all the bee-free honey supers in one stack on the truck to save space and ratchet strapped the remaining hive bodies individually. Now to wait for nightfall… (Bear in mind that the bees didn’t know or care when we were coming. The foragers were out doing their jobs during the day. So picking up the hives at 3pm means you abandon all those hard working girls who had collected the honey. Not cool.) So we wait until night time when everyone has returned to the hive to close the doors and load the hives.
What to do for the next few hours? Visit Boone. We hit our favorite touristy spots: The Mast General Store, antique shops, Mellow Mushroom while biding our time. The only trouble arose when some enterprising local bees discovered the honey motherlode in the back of the truck. It was easy to pick out our vehicle in the parking lot. “Oh yeah, excuse me, I need to get into the vehicle shrouded in bees.” You gotta love a town where no one bats an eye at such occurrences. We had a little parade of bees following us through the downtown streets entertaining the freshman families come for orientation. But the cloud dropped back as we went down the mountain.
We returned to Buck Mountain to grab the hives and head home. But the gate was down. and we had no code to get in this time. I called everyone I knew on the mountain but sure enough, no one was home. It was getting late. Aaron, ever helpful, yells “there’s a 1 in 1,050,000 chance you can guess that code. It’s impossible!” He then wandered ahead to see if he could manually trip the gate. Absentmindedly, I typed in the first 4 numbers that came to mind. Ding! The gate beeps and pops open. Agape, I jump in the truck and floor it through before it closed. Aaron is left to run after me, just ducking under the guillotine gate.
The rest of the trip was like clockwork. Hives loaded in less than 30 minutes and on the road. We rolled into Pittsboro around 12:30am and sang the praises of the almost completed farmhouse (now with actual beds). It was a great trip and a good sourwood season. The next day, we returned some of the honey supers to the hives for summer food.
Now I could turn my attention to weightier matters. At least one hive was struggling desperately with disease and mites. So it was important to have them home so I could treat and monitor them. So we will work on getting everyone healthy and ready to prepare for fall. It’s good to be home.