Sunday, September 27, 2015


Nothing makes a garden happier than the sound of hardworking bees. And that is why Mian and I have wanted a hive for a  long, long time. And just this spring, when I was out travelling, I got a phonecall from G.
"Some people turned up at our house with bees. What should I tell them?"
"Don't let them leave!" I yelped. "Whatever you have to do, just get those bees into our hive."
And he did.

Busy bees
Kumauni beehives are very different from the wooden boxes you see elsewhere. Those are too cold for the bees in winter, and the mountain sense of hospitality necessitates that they live in the house with you. The beehive here is  a small alcove constructed  into the exterior wall. From the outside, it has a small hole for access. The 'back' of the hive, the part that is in the house, has a wooden board that can be removed to access the honey.
The 'front' of the hive,which the bees use.

The 'back' of the hive,opening into our bedroom

For me, the honey is secondary. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure hearing the loud busy buzz over my salvia, my buckwheat, my flowering parsley. Garden planning is now centred around extending the flowering season for the bees.

'Don't worry about them', says Ratanda, bee whisperer and guardian of mountain lore. "They go all the way upto the forests in the Himalayas." In fact, he told me, the Queen refuses to eat till one of  the  drones feed her a bit of ice from the high peaks.

He came by a few days ago to inspect the bees before the winter, purely out of regard for them. We had long discussions about what to do if the hive was  overflowing. As it turns out, we were a little optimistic.

The inside of the bee cabin, with a very modest hive.
"Nobody works these days" Ratanda muttered. Not sure if  he meant the bees or me.
Ratan (in the cap) and G- two hardworking people