Each autumn when figs ripen and the honey jar starts to fill, I crack open my copy of a frou-frou cookbook by the woman known in France as the Fairy Godmother of Jam, Christine Ferber, and turn to p167.
There on p167 is a simple recipe for the most grown-up ambrosia your lips shall encounter — Fig and Honey Jam with Bay. I’m sure it’s divine with all sorts of bourgeois goodies like foie gras but I eat it straight out of the jar after a long sweaty day slinging websites.
Fig & Honey Jam with Bay
- 2 1/4 lbs figs
- 3 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 1/2 oz honey (I like a darker summer honey.)
- 6 bay leaves
- Juice of 1 small lemon
If you’re lazy, just cook this all up slow and long on the stove. Then seal into jars.
More gross than a thousand creepy ex-boyfriends is this: A wax moth-infested beehive.
Hive overtaken by wax moths
Two months ago, this hive was booming. But when it exuberantly swarmed in July during one of the hottest and driest summers on record in Albuquerque, we already knew the end of the story.
It goes a little something like this…
- First, the girls can’t/won’t/don’t raise a new queen.
- Next, their numbers dwindle.
- Then, the delicate balance of nature tips in favor of wax moths and ants and robber bees.
And thusly skin-crawling putrefaction occurs in the hive as moths build tunnels through wax comb and ants pilfer the remaining honey. It’s a race to the bottom and the few remaining worker bees struggle hopelessly like violinists on the sinking Titanic. They scurry and gather and clean but are destined for death.
Opening such a hive is a visceral endeavor for you’re not sure whether to cry or wretch. If it weren’t for a stiff drink afterwards, I’d probably do both.
A dirty landing board means the end is near.
Wax moth webbing shows they've moved in.
The few remaining bees can't keep up.
Wax moth larva crawl everywhere.
At this point, we’re focusing on our strong remaining hives and will let this one sadly languish until winter’s hard freeze. Both bees and moths will have perished then and we’ll clean and freeze for a fresh start next year.
And so the tale of this hive ends. Except that I happen to know there’s a little Lebowski on the way and that the early spring split from this hive is going strong, strong enough to survive the winter and promise new birth next year.
Today, I enter the infested realm, the web of neglect. Today, I open the hive of doom.
Neglect rules at the hive of doom
It’s the hive that swarmed massively and inexplicably in July like rioters late to the rave. We attempted to requeen but activity on the landing board remains dismal. By now, it’s surely failed and certainly overrun by wax moths and ants, opportunists feasting on the colony’s remains.
This afternoon, I’m donning the hazmat gear and going in… And I promise to take photos of the gory scene.
UPDATE: Gory indeed. Hold your breath and dive in!