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Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Butler / Moshannon Pa
Cutting a bee tree
Has anyone else ever cut a bee tree for its honey? I know in today's world it would create howls of outrage and the practice is probably all but eliminated in the rural culture. But back in the 60's and earlier it was quite common for folks to find and cut a bee tree each fall for honey. Some of my earliest memories as a kid were going with my grandfather and uncle to cut a tree.
First you had to find a tree. In the fall, many times you could use your nose to locate one, as the bees were drying goldenrod nectar into honey and it emitted a very strong scent. If one wasn't found, my grandfather had small wooden box with a sliding glass lid. Inside he'd place some Karo syrup laced with anise oil to attract honey bees. They would gorge themselves and fly slowly ( they’re packing a lot of sugar weight )and directly back to there hive. And I mean directly. When a bee has a full load of honey, it will fly a completely straight line back to its hive. ( that's where the term "making a beeline" came from). If you ran, you could keep up with them. If you caught several bees at different locations and walked out their flight path, their bee tree could be triangulated from where the courses cross. When you found a tree, you'de paint an X with white wash on it to let others know the tree had been claimed.
Now came the day to cut the tree. This was usually in early October. I was only 3 or 4 went I went, and had to stay in my uncle's Chevy Apache truck. With the windows up. The bee smoker was lit, and a rag with sulfur powder was stuffed inside. My grandfather had a David Bradley chainsaw...that saw must have weighed 40 lbs. The tree was notched and felled. As soon as it his the ground, my uncle would start smoking their entrance hole with the smoker.( the sulfur would kill the bees). The bees were none to happy, and stings were common. I remember watching out the window as a huge mass of bees would swirl around in the air at the exact location their entrance hole had formerly been. There brains were hard wired to that exact location, even though there tree was now on the ground.
After thoroughly smoking the hole, the tree was left alone till the next day. They used the chainsaw, hammers and wedges to split the tree and remove the honey comb. Everything was placed into metal water pails and hauled home to clean it up. Folks said that "wild honey" tasted better than the honey you took from a hive...I couldn't tell the difference.
A couple of years ago I had an oak tree fall over that held a honey bee colony. I recalled what I'd seen 55 years earlier and collected about 40 lbs of rendered honey from that tree. Today, feral honeybees ( honey bees aren't a native specie to North America) are far and few between and I wouldn't cut a bee tree if I found one. But it was an interesting thing to see that most folks today will never get to witness.
Last edited by Bigbrownie; 05-02-2018 at 02:03 PM.