Louisville Magazine

JUN 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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54 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 6.19 THE BIT he says, simply, "I'm from Peru." A thick glob of bees writhe across the exterior of one hive, and an angry buzzing cloud envelops the area, rippling and tumbling in dazzling murmurations. Bernal tells me the bees aren't dangerous when they swarm, but I let him help me into a screened hat before he pulls on a beekeeping jacket with a Kentucky Beekeepers Association patch on the bicep. He doesn't put on his gloves until he's already surrounded by bees, which don't faze him in the slightest. Sure enough, a hive is swarming. Bernal fills a little silver can with paper and stokes a fire inside, pressing bellows to puff smoke at the hive; this prompts angry buzzing, and sends the bees back inside, a bit confused. To prevent part of the colony from taking up residence in a neighbor's chimney, he splits the hive in two, rearranging boxes and the slats of honeycomb inside. Over the course of about three hours, he trudges through the flying hordes, lifting boxes heavy with honey, prying them open with metal tools, lifting out slats and holding them up like surgeons do with X-rays, watching for capped cells of honey, or larvae, or parasites, which are thankfully absent. He splits two hives, upping his total to 15. Bernal waves me into the bees, and I tiptoe in. Bees crawl through my hair and seem to sniff at my bare arms. He points at a big drop of glistening honey on top of a hive. "Taste it," he says. A bee standing on the hive has a staring contest with my finger, but decides I'm not worth the effort, and lets me have my way. I have never tasted honey so sweet and rich with pollen. It's almost worth the risk. Bernal, who turns 67 this month, spends anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours working with the hives, which he visits multiple times each week. By the time he finishes, he's wet with sweat. I can't help but wonder if the honey itself is what gives him the energy to keep up with babysitting thousands of stinging wards, which, yes, of course, have let him have it plenty of times. Each morning, after he wakes up around 5 a.m., he has a spoonful of a tonic he makes with the honey, coconut oil, turmeric, gin- ger, peppers and ashwagandha. "Delicious, man," he says. "Delicious."

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