A Place in My Heart
Jul 16, 2023 | by The Fellowship
I had never paid much attention to bees until one particular summer when my wife, two children, and I visited my parents in upstate New York. We always looked forward to spending time with many family members in that area.
That summer, my parents had rented their garage apartment to a man from Louisiana. He was in the honey business and had just bought some 500 hives of bees from a local beekeeper. Back in Louisiana, he also owned hundreds of hives. His plan was to divide his time and efforts between the two locales, spending the spring/summer months in New York and the fall/winter months in Louisiana.
Because my wife was from the same town in Louisiana as he, we all quickly became friends. He was overwhelmed with so many new hives to service and asked if I would give him a hand. I agreed and thus began my second career – beekeeping.
Bees reproduce in the warm months. A queen can lay 2,000 eggs a day and a hive can soon have 80,000 inhabitants. That is when dividing to multiply happens and a huge swarm will leave the hive to seek a new place to call home. A beekeeper knows to have plenty of new hives available and how to get the swarms into their new homes.
A queen is a necessity for each hive, and each swarm will have a queen. But often an older queen needs to be replaced, and a new, fresh one can be purchased. The new queen arrives in a tiny box, one end of which is honey which has hardened into sugar. The bees get used to the new queen during the five or six days it takes them to eat through the hardened sugar so the queen can come out.
By the time we returned to our home in Virginia, I was hooked. In no time, I had a hive of bees living in my backyard. The next year my employer, the U.S. Customs Agency, transferred us to Houston. I could not bear to leave my hive behind, so I screened it in and attached it to the top of our van for our trip in the mild, fall weather to Texas.
My wife did not much care for a backyard full of bees, so a friend who also kept bees allowed me to put my hive in his backyard. Things began expanding and in time I bought a lot off I-45 and moved my bees there. My customs job was headquartered at Houston Intercontinental Airport, not far from the lot I had purchased. So, my noon hours and Saturdays were devoted to taking care of the bees. I bought a honey extractor and built a honey house to store the output from my 80 hives until it was purchased.
When honey sits for a while, it solidifies into sugar and must be re-liquified. This is done by slow warming until the sugar dissolves and the honey can flow once again. An electrician friend built a burner for this purpose. I used it in my garage where I could keep an eye on the honey during the slow warming process.
One winter Saturday I placed a large plastic pail full of honey in a pot of water on the burner. It was positioned close to the garage door. Knowing the slow process would take all night, I put a blanket over the pail to help conserve the heat. My plan was to check on it before I went to bed. Unfortunately, I forgot!
About three in the morning, we were awakened by our neighbor and the sound of sirens arriving at our house! Strange noises had woken him up. He looked out his bedroom window to see our garage in flames and the breezeway starting to burn. He immediately called the fire department.
“Please help us, God!” We frantically prayed. My wife raced upstairs to wake our two children and take them outside, and I jumped into my truck parked on the driveway and backed it out of harm’s way.
The flames were beginning to lick at the siding on the back of our house when the fire was put out about 15 minutes later. The garage, our car within it, and the breezeway were goners. But the Lord had spared our house and all its contents! No one was injured!
When we purchased our home, never did we have an inkling that the Lord was leading us to buy on a street that had a fire station just a few blocks away. The fireman was there to extinguish the flames in record time! Insurance covered most of the damage.
I retired from beekeeping for about a year. But then I gradually eased back into it on a much smaller scale. Those fuzzy, buzzy honeybees and the way they are programmed by God to accomplish the crucial mission of pollination in this world have forever found a place in my heart.
… when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.