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Feb. 06, 2012

Candlemas, All Over Again

by Carl Flatow

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I have always enjoyed Stephen Colbert, and last week I learned something useful. I did not know, until he told me, that Groundhog Day was a derivative of a holiday called Candlemas. He really got me into research mode when he explained that Candlemas tradition included the harvest of beeswax from the family hive for making candles that would be blessed by the priests.

This sacred event was set to take place forty days after Christmas, based on Jewish tradition as described in the Gospel of Luke. But February 2 also happens to be significant as the midpoint between the winter solstice and the March equinox, and as such, it is considered in some traditions to be the beginning of spring (perhaps depending on whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not?)

But I’ll tell you what was evident to me. The observation hive in which I installed the colony of bees I saved from destruction by Hurricane Irene have started raising brood. To me, that’s a sign of spring. By Groundhog day the queen had been laying and there were tiny larvae visible deep in some of the comb.

Should I keep my fingers crossed? One thing is for sure. Groundhog Day should be a day of celebration for beekeepers.

About Carl Flatow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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