Dawn Heumann, our fearless photographer, and I recently spent some time observing beekeeper David Benefiel (our honey supplier) at his Sebastopol property Paradox Farm (David and his wife are both physicians). We had originally planned for Dawn to document only the act of inspecting the hives, which involves smoking them so that the bees become docile. But as soon as we arrived at the farm, David informed us that there was a change of plans. A huge mass of bees had gathered near the top of an apple tree in what David said was the first swarm of the season. To remove the swarm, David put on a mask, a white jacket (bees are attracted to dark colors), climbed up a ladder, and sprayed the swarm with sugar water. He then took a bucket and shook the tree so that the swarm would fall into the bucket. He also used his gloved hands and a soft bee brush to get most of the remaining bees into the bucket. The last step involved dumping the bucket into the hives.
With the swarm taken care of, it was now time to inspect the hives. Using an old bee smoker he bought from the flea market, David smoked the hives and then removed the frames from the hive boxes. He pointed out that there were only bees — there was no honey to harvest just yet. We at Peter Lowell’s are looking forward to the next jars of delicious, local honey from our friends at Paradox Farm.