In Comb Bees Is

What happens when a self-made Jewish American Princess gets bitten by the beekeeping bug?

I’ll let you know as the story develops. So far it’s led to one hive,  at least three epiphanies, two bee suits, 36 jars of honey, a hot tub full of happy young people, 5 books, and a subscription to a bee journal.

This is how it started:

“We are so sorry for your suffering, but it was not personal,” the executives from Continental Tire, GmBh, the company where he was slave labor in 1944 and 1945 told my father in law, who came to visit them in 2006 .  You were just a number to us, a replacement worker lent to us by the Nazis to make up for the factory workers they took from us for the army.”

A worker bee, in other words. My dad was a worker, too. And my aunts, and my uncles.

I’ve had bees on my mind, since it is now two years since I got my hive full of bees, and a big book called “the beekeeping bible” arrived last week. I can remember their arrival date of the bees very easily since  a stranger delivered them the day after my father in law died.  His name in Polish, TRZMIEL, means ‘bumblebee,’

I had agreed to have a beehive in January of 2012, because suburban beekeepers are keeping hives to counteract the CCD epidemic, and the sad story of the bees moved me. After a year it was time to check on the bee’s health and gather some honey. I borrowed a bee suit  from another stranger–the cause celebre of bee survival is a powerful password–and helped the woman who delivered my hive a year ago take the hive apart, pick out three of 20 or so combs  and put them in a lidded container, and put the hive back together. She complimented me on my remarkable sang-froid. But after she left, I had to deal with getting the honey out of the combs. That’s the hardest part of the process and the messiest, especially without special equipment.

A couple of hours later, I opened up the container to see quite a few bees crawling around inside, covered in honey, trapped in the product of their own labor.

The sight of those struggling bees shook me up. I felt sympathy for them. More–I felt guilty for taking their honey.

So I rescued them, providing clothespins they could use as escape routes from the honey and a container with clean water where they could clean themselves off. Then I felt better, although—having made the mental leap comparing the bees to camp workers—I was not unable to decide if I was I the Joint Distribution Committee, a liberating army, or HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).

And, do the bees I freed from the mess of honey suffer from survivor’s guilt?

I’ve been studying bees  for the past year, and now, with my new knowledge, I just conducted another honey harvest.  I  harvested twice as much honey, and many fewer bees died. Now I’m eager to get more bees, and more honey,and do it again.

See how easy it is to go from oppressed to oppressor?


About Onecakebaker

Author of a memoir called The Girl On the Wall, and working on a novel. Former Synagogue president, gardener, empty nester. Raising bees.
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