Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Slam! Let the Bees Be Bees!

Natural beekeeping, so called due to it's followers' beekeeping philosophy of human noninterference, additionally refers to the methods natural beekeepers employ to lessen their influence upon the hive. One such method involves excluding the beeswax (or plastic, for that matter) foundation that human machines (machines made by humans, not human-machines) shape into a thin sheet of hexagonal cells, in an attempt to replicate honeybee craftsmanship.

The photo below shows the foundation-less frames hanging in the super. The beeswax foundation is laced with thin metal wires for stability.
The idea behind the beeswax foundation is that of a "head start." The bees will create beeswax in their abdomens and "draw out" the wax, building on top of it to increase its width to be able to hold baby bees and honey on each side. The wax gives them something to work with; it speeds up the honey-making process.

I decided long ago to forgo honey harvest this summer. First of all, June was at least 90% rain. I mean, we felt it too. It sucked big time. But imagine if raindrops were deadly, as they are for bees... and imagine that if we didn't hoard food now, we'd starve in the cold... (cold would also be deadly...) Well, such is the case for bees.

Secondly, my kid sis Dana's boss, the Red Bee beekeeper (whose local honey is delectable) advised her that one shouldn't harvest during a colony's first summer if one wants the bees to survive the winter. And I certainly want that.

So, natural beekeeping seemed an obvious choice. Let the bees do their bee thang. They don't need no stinking human-formed hexagons! They're probably laughing at the shoddy quality anyway.

Here's a foundation-less solution:

Starter Strips must resemble a paint stirrer in composition and size. Stick em in the top of your frame. Use wood glue to make em sturdy. The bees will draw down the comb from the starter strip. Melt beeswax and paint it on the frames. If you don't have beeswax, paint it with bee tea or the like. Voila!
Okay, so we let the bees be bees. Here's my question: what does it mean to let the humans be human?

It would be really easy to create a religious analogy about the relationship between humans, the hive, and the beekeeper, but that isn't at all my intention; although feel free to create one for yourself. Instead, I'd initially like to conjure the image of the beeswax foundation. Then I'd like to say this, dramatically: "The Beeswax Foundation: That Upon Which All Is Built." I would then like to ask the reader, teacher-style, to respond to the following question in his/her journal: "What is the human foundation?" And of course, such generality cannot go by without its subjective counterpart: "What is your human foundation?" Proceed. You have two minutes. And there is no such thing as "finishing" before the two minutes are up.

Last night, my friend Liz and I were at the bar at the Frying Pan, a fantastic location (on a boat on the Hudson) with a horrible crowd. Surrounded by pastels and black shoes, she asked, "Does anyone really enjoy the nine-to-five?" An ironic question of course, because it was obvious that all the shirts were just yucking it up about pencil skirts, golf scores, and the Dow Jones Industrial. I mean, these nine-to-fivers looked like they were loving life, American Psycho-style. Well, here's my answer: they enjoy it because they think they should be enjoying it. The personal days. The cubicles. The midtown bars. Do I sound like a hater? Because I'm really not hating, I'm just saying that maybe paperweights and board meetings are these guys' beeswax foundations.

I mean, take away the beeswax foundation from the bees, and they just build their own honeycomb. How many of us have built our own house? Designed it and built it with our own bare hands? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Wittgenstein built his sister a house from scratch. He said "I am not interested in erecting a building, but in presenting to myself the foundations of all possible buildings." Working on a farm, not the least a farm in Red Hook, I am afforded the opportunity to be surrounded by life cycles. A seed germinates, sprouts cotyledons, the first two sprigs of life, grow leaves, flowers, bears fruit, seeds again... and somewhere in that process, I eat it. It's beautiful!

I am not interested in eating this cool, crunchy cuke, but in presenting to myself the growth of all possible vegetables!

On a serious note, the bees are able to sustain themselves just fine without us humans trying to replicate their intricate work with our fancy machines. Us humans, on the other hand, have made so many technological and industrial advances that sadly, we alienate ourselves from the very thing that made possible higher thought: sustenance. We take it for granted to such a degree that it is unclear whether or not we'd be able to sustain ourselves if we weren't sustained in the first place. We no longer grow the food we eat or build the houses we live in. Which is fine on the one hand, but we've taken it to extremes, as usual. And by "us," I mean us stupid 'Mericans.

I could go on about the constructed beeswax foundations that lay beneath our every hope and dream, but my hand has begun to smoke from writing so fast, and I realize that the average reader's attention span is more accustomed to short, flashy blurbs than my self-indulgent reveries. So I'll end it there, and instruct you to continue journaling for five minutes. The topic? "Is love an essential human need?"

I will then remind you that children denied physical affection become atrophied, and briefly argue on this basis that yes, it is, although not necessarily romantic love. Although, doesn't this inscription on a Ft. Tryon park bench make you think it should be?

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