“Next year we we’ll have 120 pounds of honey coming outta the two hives, rx ” says Brian Frakes, Pfister head chef and as of this year, beekeeper. He takes me up to the roof; where 24 stories above the ground the bees await their sugar water refill. He lights the burlap in his smoker and climbs into a suit. I ask him how long the smoke sedates bees and he replies, “Twenty minutes. My understanding is it doesn’t actually sedate them; it stops them from being able to do their panic communication with each other. Therefore sedating them.”
So far he’s only been stung once and yes, hospital it was as bad as he feared, “I did not like it. I was more upset with myself because it was my fault. I was by myself and he was riding on the back of me, I didn’t notice him and I pulled off my suit like a sweater.” When Brian went out of town for two days one of the banquet cooks, Marco suited up and fed them “Which was very brave of him, because no one is jumping out of their skin to mess with the bees.” Brian’s trick for checking if there are any bees on him when he is up here alone is to “Look at my shadow and see if there is anything flying around.”
He points to the hive on the left, “These bees are very kind and very productive, and that’s why they are further along. But these bees on the right? These bees are always mad!” The same variety of bee resides in both of the hives but like most families each one is a little different. Which family did the bee that stung him come from? “I don’t know it was someone that was outside, but I’m going to say yes, the bees that stung me came from the mean family. Let’s not say mean, they are very aggressive, protective.”
Lifting the cover off the protective family he warns, “They are possibly coming to attack you.” I step back, and indeed, a bee flies straight towards me, gets near my head and then hurdles back to its hive. Will the protective bees’ future offspring be as passionate? “Just because grandma was nuts doesn’t mean all her children will be.” Brian scrapes the excess honeycomb. “Wax. That’s the bee business. They need a place to make a lot of babies.”
With the recent Pfister bee media frenzy, Chef Frakes put some of the honeycomb into a clear container so that the reporters could get close to it. Later he stored the container with the comb in his office and was watching as one of the bee larvae came to life. “It finished the larvae process and turned into a bee in one of these containers rather than in the hive. It was born anyways! Pretty incredible. It gave me chills.” He also ate one of the unborn larvae just to be weird and primal. “It was creamy and a little crunchy. Not overly pleasant, but not horrible either.”
I ask so many questions about his larvae eating that he invites me to try one that he’s been keeping in his office. It’s cold and wet on the tongue, and reminds me of buttered corn-on-the-cob.