smoking the beehive
to calm her bees, cleaning wax,
checking on the brood
Alitza looks like an astronaut in a white jumpsuit, veiled hat, heavy boots and plastic gloves. But instead of going into outer space, she's going into the inner space of one of her beehives. She's doing routine maintenance, cleaning each of the frames that hold wax, honey and brood. Her tools are a copper smoker, a red-handled combination frame lifter and hive cleaning tool, and a lot of highly focused attention and patience.
Alitza cautions me to stay away from the entrance to the hive next to the one she's working on and to keep a safe distance from the open hive. "It's your dark clothes," she says. To the bees, I look like a skunk or a bear, their natural predators.
She's already removed the frames and placed them on hangers outside the white super. Next she smokes the area to be cleaned, to calm the bees so she can work.
With her hive tool Alitza cleans out some old wax.
Once the area is clean, Alitza replaces each frame, some filled with honey and bees, some with fresh wax.
Then she puts the top super back on.
Then the inner cover with the slot for the bees to enter the frames.
And finally the metal lid, which will be weighted down with a cement block.
Mango comes out to say hello. Fearless cat, he's not the least bit afraid of the bees.
"There's a lot of honey but not much brood," she says. "I don't know why. The bees look healthy. Maybe I just missed some swarms."