The first order of business was the bees. I had not been in the hive since mid-June and recent activity had me concerned they were running out of room. On the last inspection we added new frames to the existing hive bodies, checker-boarding them within the built out frames. Some built out frames and some new ones went into the addition of more hive bodies. Cleopatra’s hive, the green queen’s home, is nearing skyscraper proportions with two medium bodies and two deeps.
I turned off the fence and readied our supplies as I waited for Jodi. It was already hot and soupy with humidity at 8 am. I don’t know how Southern bee keepers deal with that. Sweat trickled down my neck and an angry lady flew at me and lodged her stinger in my sleeve. A quick application of fresh plantain leaves, crushed and pulled from the ground by the hive soothed the welt instantly.
Jodi and I worked efficiently and quickly, breaking down the first, weaker hive. And by any other standards, it is not weak. We found queen Iris, with her beautiful blue Bindi, and determined there would be lots of honey in about two weeks time for me to remove. Jodi exclaimed she has never done a four-deep hive. It could very well have been split to make two hives, but I saw no signs of swarm cells and they seemed happy enough so we built it up with a new body.
Cleopatra’s hive is already epic proportions and I was out of new frames and bodies. We went down three layers, rearranged some of the frames that weren’t yet built out to encourage the ladies, and marveled at the amount of honey they have stored. We were rewarded with a view of three drones emerging; the rare chance of witnessing the birth of a bee!
An hour of working and we were both drenched in sweat. The bees were becoming louder and more aggressive as we obliged them and put the hive back together.
Lauren and I had made plans to ride to the pond and swim our ponies. By mid-morning when we headed down the road, the heat was oppressive and giant horse flies buzzed as we slogged through town. Most drivers were courteous, slowing and waving. After about two and a half miles, the road turned to dirt and we saw the pond. The homeowner was knee-deep in the water raking the weeds from the far end. She called out to please join her. The horses stir up the silty bottom and dislodge any growth. She was delighted to have us come to play. I was nursing a very sore butt at this point. Riding bareback, even with a cushioned pad, positions Night’s narrow backbone directly against my less than fleshy derrière and the added heat meant a distraction that was becoming uncomfortable.
Night gingerly stepped in and surveyed the water. With some encouragement she circled deeper, testing the footing. Suddenly, what I thought was a misstep became a ballet as her feet left the ground. Her body sank, the water covered her neck and her head bobbed before me. I was submerged to my ribs in cool, refreshment but it was the movement beneath me that took over. She surged and leapt, then settled into a stride. I allowed the water to buoy me and lifted off, clinging to her sides with my legs.
When we hit solid footing once again, we splashed out to find Lauren and Blessing having a moment of disagreement. Though they had been there just two days earlier and Blessing had been fine, she was having none of it today. Whether she was being naughty or wise, we will never know. Luckily there were no cameras rolling when Lauren took a solo and unplanned swim. She was quite rightly horrified and pissed off, but I couldn’t help giggling at the spectacle. I hid my smile by turning Night once more toward the middle of the pond, feeling that lift-off and fluid motion.
The ride home was decidedly damp and sticky. My boots squished and dripped, the leather seat of my britches became glued to the bareback pad, and Night’s wet tail stung when she missed a fly and got me on the arm. But the sun was strong, the day was only half over and I had spent it in the company of remarkable beings.
N.B. Photos courtesy of Wilson