Dan's Papers Aug. 27, 2010

Page 57

DAN'S PAPERS, August 27, 2010 Page 56 www.danshamptons.com

By Stacy Dermont I spent an afternoon with North Fork beekeeper Laura Bavaro of Blossom Meadow recently. It was fascinating to see, up close and personal, how bees make honey. I helped her split out a hive to avert a swarm. That means that, under the cover provided by her handheld smoker, we took some of the frames filled with eggs, pollen, honey and bees from a full manmade hive and moved them to a new, empty hive. In the new hive, the bees will sense that they no longer have a queen and will make a few queens from day-old eggs. The worker bees feed the unborn queens protein-rich royal jelly to develop them to sexual maturity. When the first new queen hatches, she goes to all the other queen cells and stings the unborn queens to death. (Talk about sibling rivalry!) We replaced the frames we removed from the established hive with new ones, so the colony again has room to grow. Most East End beekeepers harvest honey in June and September. The rest of their beekeeping hours are spent maintaining the hives and, in Laura’s case, in making beeswax candles. In addition to votives and tea lights, she makes candles in the shapes of pine trees and frogs. I was afraid that these candles might melt if I shipped them upstate as gifts, ‘turns out beeswax has the highest melting point of any wax. They don’t melt until you light ‘em. Another amazing beeswax fact: beeswax is edible – that’s why they coat M&Ms with the stuff

Laura Bavaro

Beeing There

The author messin’ with the bees

– so that it doesn’t ‘melt in your hands.’ Bavaro’s latest product is a yummy, natural lip balm. She hopes to have artist-quality crayons on the market for the winter holidays. The honey she gathers from hives across the North Fork is the best I’ve tasted. It really

tastes like a “meadow blossom,” but it’s not at all strong. I use it to make granola and to sweeten my tea. It’s the only honey that my son will use to coat his throat when he has a cough. Honey is not just a sweet treat, more and more doctors believe it can help curb seasonal allergy symptoms. So the “more local” your honey is the better – you want to ingest “a bit of the hair of the dog that bit you” – trace amounts of local pollens, to counteract your body’s reaction to local pollen in the air. I’ve added The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd to my list of must-read books. After Beekeeper Bavaro showed me a bee penis, I realized that this “secret life” is like living science fiction. Forget “the bees knees,” more about a bee’s penis: it’s internal (when not in use), it’s two-pronged and it locks into the queen for in-flight copulation. That’s right, all honeybees are products of the Mile High Club. It gets weirder still. In order to fulfill her role as the mother of all of her colony, a virgin queen bee flies more than three miles away from her hive to breed. Because the male drone bees fly no more than three miles from their homes to gather pollen, flying more than three miles guarantees a new DNA pool. A queen has to gather enough sperm to last for up to seven years. Her body swells to contain this mother lode. On average a queen mates with 14 drones, but no one knows how the male bees (continued on page 64)


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