Beekeeping with Carlo

I was fortunate enough to be around when Carlo came to visit Case Vecchie early one afternoon. He stayed for lunch as we barbequed fish that he has brought with him. This was amazing, a new way to cook fish that I had not experienced before- a little more info can be found on the Anna Tasca Lanza tumblr feed here: 

An even more exiting visit then followed- a trip to see the Sicilian black bees in a apiary of hives a short drive away within the Regaleali estate.

It has been said that you can do bee checks on the Sicilian black bee without a bee suit as they can be so docile, but there were also a mix of other honey bees and some had hybridised- creating an angry little creature, so suits were essential!

As I recently wrote about in ‘You better bee-lieve it’ the black bee is something pretty unique and it was great to finally meet Carlo in person and watch him work and assist where I could!

One of the aims of the check this time round was to assess how the process of removing/ eradicating the other honey bee colony was going. Some non-native Italian bees had inhabited some of the hives and so more black bees were introduced to try and out compete with them, but have ended up hybridising, so Carlo was looking for the queen in these hybrid hives and wanted to remove them. Finding them can be a tricky business however!

Numerous times I thought I had found one, only for him to say it was a very active male. When looking for the queen bee- size isn’t everything. We were looking for a slightly narrower body and shorter wings, though this can be difficult to distinguishing when bees are all crossing over on top of each other. Of course, when he showed us an example in the black bee colony, it was already marked, so a little easier to spot!

One other thing that Carlo mentioned was how after male bees have mated there sexual parts break off, so they only get one chance! Carlo demonstrated by picking his victim and consequently exposed and removing the bees dignity, though it seemed to fly off unaware.

We ended with harvesting a small amount of Asphodelus honey, and had a taste, straight from the hive- a divine, almost clear sugar syrup like nothing else, and the taste of having it fresh will be something my pallet savours for a while to come!

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