Wednesday, 6 June 2012


In case you missed it:



They came, they saw, they concurred, it was indeed a good day to gather wild bees and their honey.

As promised, the Senior Honey Man, and his trusty assistant returned with reinforcements in the form of a young local, recruited for his height and strength, and another fellow, recruited because he owned a big enough chainsaw.  With my dear old Dad, leading the charge, this unlikely band  marched into my garden, declaring that today would be the day!

As before, the smokers were prepped, new, taller ladders hoisted and overalls donned. Trevor the gardener, put aside his grass cutting and came to witness the spectacle.  There was something of a carnival atmosphere; chatting,  joking, friendly banter, discussions of tactics. And so it began.....again!

The limb that would be cut down to bring the whole bee colony to ground (literally) was suitably lashed with ropes normally used for lifting slings of cement, and the volunteers took their places. Like a tug of war team - man vs bees.   The chainsaw roared as it was hoisted into the canopy by a second rope to the Snr Honey Man - all was ready.

In some distant part of my past, I was obliged to complete a "Health & Safety at Work" Diploma, so tend to watch such occasions, open-mouthed and always with the same thought - what would the HSE make of this?  Snr Honey Man up a tree with a chain saw dangling on the end of a rope - angry bees, stinging ants; his bee net still safely stowed (deemed not to be required today), but most intriguing - throughout the entire operation, he was totally bare-footed.  No bee-net, no gloves, no hard hat, no safety goggles, no ear defenders and no & safety be damned!

All that aside, this operation went remarkably smoothly.  Shouts went up that the final cut was about to be made to the bough, and the men down below steeled themselves to take up the slack (for a cut  bough full of bees, is a weighty issue).  Down it came, slowly but surely, resting gently on the ground.  Jnr Honey Man was already down from the tree, his smoker puffing to the max ....bees buzzed but there was a strange sense of calm and a feeling that this time, all was under control.

Some minutes later the bough was open and the honeycomb exposed.  There was much excitement as these grown men seemingly reverted to small children, excited to be the first to try - something akin to the seagull scene in Disney's "Finding Nemo", the looks on their faces said it, all that was missing was the dialogue..."mine, mine, mine, mine.....".  Greedy, sticky, grown men, with mouths full of honey, momentarily distracted from the task in hand....Trevor the Gardener proclaimed that he was "drunk on honey!".  The bee box was fetched and prepared and the honey men went about the business of cutting out the wild honeycomb and adding them to the new frames a section at a time; frame by frame until they had all that they needed. Now came the search for the queen, for without her royal presence, the colony would not obey the command to abandon their faithful old tree in favour of the new hive.

The process was long and arduous - up and down the ladder returning with more and more bees, adding them to the box, until Snr Honey Man proclaimed that the Queen was in residence. With this important milestone reached, there seem to be a change of atmosphere. The bee box was positioned close to the tree, I brought out jugs of homemade ginger beer to wash away the cloying sweetness of the greedily devoured honeycomb, and the men settled on the house steps. They chatted and joked, and shared stories of other bee escapades....and so they stayed for quite some time.....WHY?  because they had the queen and now waited for all returning foragers to come home, entering the bee box of their own accord....and come they did, one-by-one.  The helpers declared their work here was done, and headed home to their wives and children, yet still the  Honey Men kept their vigil.  As the sun dipped in the late afternoon sky (it gets dark soon after 6pm here), so the honey men began to gather their belongings and prepared to leave.  They would return tomorrow for any late-comers or wayward workers.

It occurred to me, watching them climb the hill, that I'd missed the most impressive photo of the entire day. The Jnr Honey Man, smoker in hand, with the full bee box balanced on his head. Grrrr to the dreaded "Memory Card Full" message.......and so ended the two week long adventure. The Honey Men have new bees, I have a Mason Jar filled with a deep, dark luscious honey that will keep me going for quite a while.  All our immediate neighbours have a pound or two.  Some from my colony, some a gift from the Honey Man for helping him to bring new life to his hives. This is exactly what I had imagined that life here should be; simple things, done well, in old traditional ways. Long may these skills live on and long may we have the right to keep bees and gather honey and sell or share natural produce with friends and neighbours. How far away we are from the sort of legislation that is sweeping other, more developed lands, where small farmers and producers are being prevented from marketing, selling or even consuming home-produced goods, as they do not conform to the "rules".  Rules that permit all manner of chemically laced, genetically-modified, saturated-, hydrogenated, trans-fats, artificial colour, sweeteners and other heinous "foods" to be consumed by the public at large.  Something is definitely amiss.

Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea? 

Excerpt: The Old Vicarage, Grantchester ~ Rupert Brooke


Authentic Shabby chic
Liana vines used for lashing the box

Better ladders that appear to bear the letters SLFD? I hope the St Lucia Fire Department do not have any emergencies today!
Snr Honey Man - bare-footed throughout

The first sample


  1. Awesome post and happy ending. It gave me chills. Your blog is the very first time I ever saw honey in a natural setting - what a treat - a "sweet" treat.

    1. Thank you so very much Chili - I'm pleased that it was "educational" as well as a good read. I told my family that I would be writing this; my father and brother were intrigued at anyone would want to read about such things - I guess it's so "everyday" to them, whilst for most of us (me included), it's all so very new. I'm just glad to have seen, and captured, before these skills disappear forever.

  2. p.s. the pictures are FABULOUS too - especially the barefeet.

  3. Awesome story and beautiful photos. Nice job! I too have never seen wild honey harvest like that, and the old world method is just fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing. Enjoy that honey, fresh honey like that is amazing!

  4. Beautiful photos and nice informative post.Infact the use of lifting sling is spot on.

  5. Fantastic story! What a fascinating life you have! I love your FB page, which led me here. And now will favorite this blog to keep up! Enjoy your honey! (':

    1. Thanks Jo - I promise to try harder to write more regularly - though it may have to be about more mundane's not this interesting ALL the time! : ))

  6. I'm sure not! lol But you have great writing style and I bet most anything you write will fascinate those of us interested! Have a fantastic day! (':

  7. Bummer! Sorry to send that message anonymously. Did not intend to and tried to change it but had a mistake in the URL as well! I thought it would save it from my 1st post, but guess not!
    Am just wanting you to know that message was from me, Jo Scott! lol

    1. Hahaha! it actually says that it's from you - no worries and thanks again. x

  8. yYeasier. Proper planing before doing anything is very important and you have nicely planned and used equipment.