Monday, May 17, 2010

On the roof with the bees

Last week, CSB realized that one of our hives atop Doug’s brownstone was weak & unlikely to survive, and he determined that we should bring in a healthy hive from home and swap them out. So we did.
And in case you are thinking that having beehives on rooftops is the simplest thing in the world, here is what we did this morning:
• Last night CSB sealed up the healthy hive from home, so the bees would not start foraging this morning.
• We load the car with veils, smoker, new hives & a nuc.
• We drive into Manhattan. If you have never before driven with CSB as a co-pilot, you may not know that he has one abiding philosophy: “Try to make that light.” It does not matter if the light is green, yellow or red. It does not actually matter if there is a light.
• I double park outside Doug’s and we unload the hive. Someone is shooting film in the community garden next door.
• Then I drive around the corner & park in racks of quite nice striped dresses on the sidewalk, for sale at 3 for $10. How is this possible?
• We carry bees and gear up 3 flights of stairs (1 outside, 2 inside) past the ever-affable & cheerful Doug working away on thriller numero très.
• Then the tricky part: I climb up the ladder not affixed to the wall, or anything else, and kneel* over the edge of the trapdoor, while CSB – bearing the new hive (weighing about 80 pounds, full of bees eager to fly, & brood & honey) over his head, gingerly climbs the lower rungs of the ladder and passes the hive up to me, leaning as far as possible over the lip of the trapdoor. I can guide the hive through the opening but not yet lift it by its cover. Finally we have positioned it so that I can lift it from the bottom and bring it onto the roof.
• We repeat the process with the nuc containing empty frames, which is smaller and much lighter.
• Up on the roof, it is warm and the bees are flying hither and yon. CSB gently places the new hive on the stand of the weak one we are removing. We remove the cover and put on an additional deep. Then I gently peel away the blue tape and screen that were sealing the bees inside their hive. They fly out eagerly, as you would expect from anyone cooped inside on a sunny day, only more so.
• From the roof I can look down on the community garden next door with its tiled center fountain, and watch the filming in progress. There appear to be two cameramen and one woman holding a microphone; she is interviewing a man in a straw hat and a woman in overalls. No one ever looks up.
• We seal up the weak hive for transport back to the Hastings Apiary and Clinic. And wish the new hive all happiness in their new home.
• CSB goes down the ladder first. My job is to kneel by the edge of the trapdoor and hand him the weak hive, slightly less heavy than the one we brought up. As I go to lift it he reminds me that there is no bottom board, only a screen, and the cranky bees would be pleased to sting me through the screen if I give them the opportunity. This makes it harder to get purchase on the hive. But I do, and we get the old bees down the ladder, then down the 3 flights of stairs.
• We walk over to 3rd Avenue and get the car which I am happy to report was legally parked at a legal meter into which I had legally inserted 3 quarters.
• We return to Doug’s, double park, and reload the car with the old hive, the nuc and the veils and smoker.
• Because we are already uptown in Spanish Harlem and because I love molé but don’t know how to make it, I have the brilliant idea of stopping at a Mexican grocery and buying some molé in a jar. We do stop at a bodega at the top of the hill on Lexington. They have no molé but they do have several varieties of holy candles in glass: Santa Rita, El Niño Atocha, San José and Santa Eulalia. CSB is waiting in the car so I do not buy any holy candles.
• We miss the turn off for the Deegan, but that is no problem because there is a lovely park way at the upper tip of Manhattan I have never noticed before, and then we cross a moveable bridge with a two turreted houses at either end.

*Kneeling is the one thing you are absolutely not allowed to do with a faux knee.


Anne said...


Diggitt said...

What makes a hive weak?

Christine Lehner said...

Dig, A variety of things are possible, but generally it means the queen is not up to her job and isn't laying enough eggs and so the population is decreasing and so the hive cannot fend off potential threats (robber bees, wax moths, varmints...a host of ills.)