Bees to Honey

Nearing my father-in-law’s house, I was surrounded by a concrete jungle. Tax services, restaurants and shopping centers were closing in on me. I then turned the corner onto Cherry Street. This put me on a residential block. A man was walking his dog and a family with young children was returning home from an unknown adventure. Little did I know I was about to embark on a journey all my own.

Over twenty-years ago, my father-in-law, Lynn Cheatum, was helping a neighbor cut down a dead tree. In this dead tree was a colony of bees and a lot of honey. " I was fascinated by it, " Lynn said recalling the incident. He then began telling me how his curiosity of bees had always been there but he had never acted upon it. Lynn was still unable to act on this curiosity because one of his neighbors was violently allergic to bees. This neighbor had to get a shot once a month, just in case a bee stung him, so he wouldn’t die.

A few years later, in 1977, Lynn moved and was able to start his apiary, a place where you keep bees and their hives. He mail ordered his bees from Sears and Roebuck. Lynn remembers the bees came in a cage with a screen, similar to a window screen, on one side. The bees also had a supply of sugar water to keep them fed. The queen bee was separate from the other bees, the workers and the drones. The queen’s cage is about half the size of a package of cigarettes.

Worker bees are the female bees in the hive that collect the pollen and do the work to keep up the hive. The worker bees also protect the hive. After they sting an intruder, the bee dies. Drones are the male bees that do nothing but eat the honey and fly around trying to mate with the queen. Drones consist of about 1% of the bee population. After the drones mate with the queen they die. The Queen bee’s one job is to reproduce.

When Lynn’s bees arrived, he had everything he needed to begin the enjoyment of his apiary.

When asked what the best part of beekeeping was, he anxiously began to tell me that working with the bees was very exciting. To my wonderment he compared his interaction with the bees to petting a dog. This I was unable to understand. My experiences with bees were they were a nuisance always interrupting a picnic or a get together on the porch.

He also commented that being able to sell and give away his honey to his friends and family was also rewarding. Every Christmas my husband and I can count on having a big jar of delicious honey for a present.

I then inquired about the process of jarring honey. To my amazement he used the same process used to donate plasma. The honeycomb or blood is placed in a honey extractor or centrifuge. This container spins around throwing the honey out of the honeycomb or the plasma out of the blood. The honey then is placed in jars ready for eating and the plasma in bags ready to save lives.

Just then Lynn’s wife, Kris, entered the room. We began discussing how she too was very interested in the apiary. Kris recalls Lynn pausing while mowing the grass so he wouldn’t run over a bee. She thought this was a very caring act. She informed me that Lynn had bought her a suit for her birthday, the first year they were together. This allowed her to begin helping Lynn with the bees. Kris jokingly says, " I married the bees." This I could tell was a good thing. She concludes by telling me of her enjoyment while watching the bees from the kitchen window.

Curiously I asked about the scariest moment, if any, in bee keeping. Together they told the story.

In the summer of 1997 Lynn and Kris were moving a beehive. They both had their vale, a straw hat with netting around it, and gloves on. Kris also had her pant legs fastened with a rubberband, so that the bees were unable to get to her legs; Lynn did not take this precaution.

The beehive was newly assembled and the bees