The winter before this last one, my family and I were fortunate to visit Nairobi, Kenya to see my sister and her fiancé get married. The Pastor who had performed the ceremony invited the newlyweds and their families for a feast at his home. He comes from Kisii, Kenya, which has a rich tradition of goat herding. To have a goat roasted for you is quite an honor and we all agreed Anne and the Murph were worthy of the tribute.
Meghan, my wife, had visited the overwhelmingly abundant buffet table and was crossing the lawn to the shady luncheon tent when from out of the brilliantly sunny sky an enormous bird swooped down and snatched the piece of roasted goat from her plate. She shrieked in alarm and made for the cover of the tent with her heart racing. I had lost a sandwich to a seagull before but this was a kite, relative of the eagle, with a wingspan of nearly five feet. Apparently when the kites see a catering tent go up they’ll circle high overhead. The odds are there is something tasty going on under that white canvas.
I could go on for hours about our remarkable trip to Kenya; it remains the most amazingly foreign experience of my life so far. Yet in this place so far from familiar I found myself having a common encounter. Somehow it came up that I kept bees back home and the Pastor became fascinated. Most everyone I meet, if the subject of beekeeping comes up, will have at least one or two questions that are interested and interesting. Pastor Robert told me about his father’s house which has trouble every year with honeybees in the walls. Every year they get rid of them, and every year they come back. They’re a nuisance, but the family doesn’t mind having the honey. I was reminded of Woody Allen’s line, “my brother is crazy, he thinks he’s a chicken. ‘Why don’t you lock him up?’ We would, but we need the eggs.”
I couldn’t offer much advice. I knew it didn’t matter much if they killed the bees. If a spot has proven successful before and if it has the aromas of a hive it will eventually attract another colony to move in. If they were able to seal off every entrance a bee could fit in they might have a chance to keep bees out. I’ve never seen the Pastor’s father’s house but I know it is in Kisii, in rural Africa. Having seen a few houses in rural Africa I can’t imagine there is enough latex caulk in the world to seal all the openings.
Later that year on the other side of the globe I heard a lecture by the delightful and engaging Cindy Bee on removing beehives from structures. My attention was riveted and Pastor Robert was in the back of my mind. I also realized this was where beekeeping and home improvement intersected. It was like when I learned somebody had begun putting cheese inside the crust of a pizza – “You can do that?!” This summer I’m going to start assembling the necessary tools and I’m hoping to be involved in my first bee removal adventure. And I learned the answer for the Pastor but the solution is difficult and sticky. He’ll need to get into the walls and clear out every lick of comb and honey and then stuff the space with fiberglass insulation. Bees hate fiberglass.
During the talk, Cindy mentioned she was working on a book. The book was published recently and I bought a copy for Pastor Robert. I’m trying to find out if fiberglass insulation is available Kenya but I’m not sure it is. The temperature in Nairobi is always perfect so insulation is not a high priority. I’d love to send some as a gift, but the shipping would be a little out of my budget.
Aside from a heart full of fond memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs, one of the treasures we brought back from Kenya was the recipe for the perfect summer honeybee lover’s cocktail. It’s called a Dawa, which translates from Kiswahili literally as “medicine.” Later that evening, I believe Meghan’s heart finally stopped racing due to this wonderful elixir.
Take a plump, shiny-skinned lime and cut it into eighths. Put the fruit into an oversized rocks glass and add one rounded teaspoon of sugar and two ounces of vodka. (The coolest restaurant in Nairobi uses Smirnoff.) Add a heaping teaspoon of honey and use the spoon or honey-dipper to muddle (smoosh) the mixture together. Fill the rest of the glass with ice and continue smooshing the mixture around as the ice melts and you sip. Enjoy – it’s both a curative beverage and something to do with your hands. (“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” my mom always says.)