Friday, September 16, 2016

Yellow is my lucky color! Making a beehive ornament

I think we, the people of the world, share a standard folklore, “Bees and beehives are lucky charms.” In Japan, we often find huge ornamental beehives of wasps in front porches of well-established traditional inn, Ryokan 旅館. That's because people considered them as talismans to ward off evils, such as thieves and illness. I now have a kind of direct knowledge wasps are furious so that we never make them angry. Sure enough, the presence of their home in front of the entrance will scare anybody … but if you want to invite many customers for inns, why they have beehives? People say that yellow, one of the common colors of the body of bees, has a connotation of gold so that beehives could also serve as a charm to welcome more money for the household. A-ha, it’s the same as Feng Shui recommending yellow purse.

I borrowed this photo from
a blog by a café in Amakusa City
of Kumamoto Prefecture.

One August weekend afternoon after volunteer activity of weeding, one of my seniors gave me something strange. It certainly was a branch of bamboo, but a yellow object attached to it. “Here it is. It’s empty. Take it.” The yellow thing was a beehive of diameter about 10 centimeters. The Chairman of Lovers for Niiharu told me, “Oh, that’s a lucky charm! It’s an empty nest of polistinae. Bring it home.” “But isn’t it better to keep it in the office of Lovers?” “Well, it’s organic so that making it ornamental needs some process which I don’t know. You can do it, don’t you?” Another senior chimed in, “Oh yeah, if you don’t have it, we’ll throw it away.” The beehive was very pure-yellow and looked beautiful. I didn’t want to treat it as a trash. So, I carried the hive home. Along the way, many people saw my possession with curiosity, and sometimes with admiration. (Ho, ho, ho …) I determined to keep its color and structure to make for a lucky charm. 

It is the thing I was given.
Isn’t it beautiful?

First, a quick googling told me, “Caution! Even if you find a good specimen of beehive for your lucky charm, never try to harvest it by yourself. Bees are aggressive. Call the professionals of pest control, blah, blah, blah …” Hm, mine was empty. I might have struck lucky already. In any case, many sites say unlike wasps polistinae is easy-going bees so that we can cohabit with them peacefully. My lucky charm could have additional magical power for harmony … I then found a site, Collaborative Reference Database, managed by none other than the National Diet Library of Japan, telling us how to make ornamental lucky charm from beehives. Wow. It shows a how-to advice from Kurashiki Museum of NaturalHistory. The Museum says, first make it sure there is no resident within the hive. Even if there is no bee or larva, any other insects could stay there occasionally or otherwise. The professionals use highly concentrated ethanol or ethyl acetate to remove living creatures from the hive. They wet cotton balls or Kleenex with the chemical, and leave them overnight with the beehive in a closed container, like transparent plastic bag with rubber band to bung. The museum recommends if we cannot have such industrial grade material home, we can leave the hive in a freezer, or spraying home insecticide to the hive in the plastic and close the lid tightly. We must leave it longer than overnight, the database says. So, I gently stowed my hive in a plastic bag, sprayed it with insecticide, and left it closed overnight. Next morning tiny winged insects came out a lot, but they were actually flying within the bag, not dying. I moved the hive in a new bag, spray and left it closed again for overnight, checking occasionally if there came more insects. After several repeats of the procedure for a week, the closed plastic bag finally became midget-free.

Spraying the hive with the insecticide
Some tiny midgets come out
after spraying insecticide …
Hmmmm, it’s the result of the 3rd trial.
It turned out to be penultimate tryout.

Second, the Museum says applying spray-varnish several times could prevent rapid degradation to the fully dried and insecticide-treated hive, although the process will kill the natural texture of the specimen. They say we can use fixative for oil painting in the same way to keep more natural expression, but no mention for the effect for preservation. I had no idea what fixative is, so, I continued more google search, and encountered another way using emulsion type polyvinyl acetate adhesive. That’s the thing we used during craft classes in elementary school. I know it! It says we can apply for the hives 2 fold water dilution of the adhesive to keep original color. So I decided to follow this advice.

Fully dried, midget-free beehive
Mise en Place for my beehive preparation.
Yellow bottle is polyvinyl acetate adhesive
which all the Japanese kids know.
“Diluting adhesive in 2 fold water”
turned out to be not instant.
That's one small step for …
according to the internet advice,
never mind for the color of the adhesive
as it becomes transparent after it is dried.
OK. I trust them …
Then, one giant leap for …
I just thought I needed to coat insides of each hole.
So I dunk the hive in the container of dilution.
Not bad, eh?
This is how it became next day:
fully dried, and no white adhesive is visible.
Second application.
A person in the internet did the same for much larger beehive.
OK, I too make this the final application of adhesive.

Finally, the Museum recommends preserving the processed beehive within a closed container with insect repellent. The hive is made by leaves mixed with saliva like body fluid of bees, i.e. pure organic that can attract pest. If we want to keep it long, we have to think how to control the attack of other insects. And so, this advice. I put my lucky beehive on a cushion of silk covering insect repellent. It looks nice, doesn’t it? The final question is where it should be situated. Considering its magical power for prosperity, south-east of my home would be the best place according to Feng Shui

Mise en Place v.2, with the final result.
Good, good, good.
Putting moss balls at the bottom of the container.
And covering it with silk.
Here it is!
It’s the south-east corner of mine. ^.^

If you find a problem in the Niiharu Forest, please make a contact with

Office for the Park Greeneries in the North 北部公園緑地事務所
Yokohama Municipal Government Creative Environment Policy Bureau 横浜市環境創造局
Phone: 045-311-2016 (I guess in Japanese only)
FAX: 045-316-8420 (I hope there is somebody who can read English …)

Niiharu Administrative Office / Satoyama Exchange Center 新治管理事務所・里山交流センター
Phone: 045-931-4947
Fax: 045-937-0898

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