There are traditions that have been passed down among beekeepers for hundreds of years. For example, it is still common to hear of folks beating on pots and pans to settle a swarm of bees. Another ancient tradition involved notifying the honey bees that there had been a death in the beekeeper’s family. The bees were notified by moving the bee hives an inch. Today, I moved some of my hives an inch. My father, Luther Underhill, died at age 92. Luther came to live with Rita and me on Peace Farm after my mother’s death. They were married for 69 years. He loved the domestic birds on the farm and the bird sanctuary. Luther was always ready to follow along with me to the bee yards, and he loved to go to the beekeeper’s wood shop where we assemble, paint, and repair bee hives. This year’s honey crop was produced on frames that Luther helped paint with chemical-free beeswax that we collect from our honey harvests. In today’s photo, Luther holds a freshly-coated frame.
Collecting and saving our own beeswax cappings is part of our integrated pest management plan. The honey bee’s nest is built of beeswax honeycomb; and beeswax acts like a sponge, absorbing many chemicals in the environment. Since we do not use miticides or harsh chemicals in the hive, our cappings beeswax is relatively free of chemical pesticide contaminates. We paint this beeswax onto frames of plastic foundation. The wax makes the plastic much more attractive to the bees. As the bees start to work on the frames, they begin by shaping the added beeswax into cells. Having a supply of chemical-free beeswax allows us to more aggressively cull old frames. The rigid plastic foundation can be easily reused. Removing the comb from old, dark frames effectively removes chemicals and disease spores from the hives. It helps fight reproductive spore-forming American foulbrood, chalkbrood, and Nosema disease. The bees have been notified; Luther will be remembered.--Richard