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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shop Is Bee's Knees for Honey Fans

"There's a shop on Leninsky Prospekt where you can buy bees by the kilogram," Yury Mazikov said as he leaned against a hive in the House of Honey near Novokuznetskaya metro.

"They send them along in a bag," he added.

I'd met Mazikov while wandering around, tasting dozens of honeys at the House of Honey (Winnie the Pooh would love this place). Lined up behind the counter are a number of vast milk pails filled with honey of a hundred hues, each vat oozing a smear of honey over its lip.

Visitors are welcome to sample the contents of each pail. Bowls stacked with tiny slivers of wood line the counter. If you look carefully, you'll see that the odd sliver has a black end - they're actually just matches with their heads cut off.

The shop assistants - all women - have to reach deep into the pails with fat wooden paddles to scoop out the honey. Getting the bit from the bottom doesn't look like much fun. The girls - who all seem to be young and pretty - all hold their hands in that way one does when fingers have become very, very sticky.

I asked one of them which honey she liked best.

"I don't eat it," she said looking rather bored. "I don't like sweet things."

A couple of men wander around the shop as well, but they don't seem to be serving any customers. I wonder if they're the ones who chop the heads off the matches.

Actually, apart from selling honey, the shop is also a mecca for beekeepers like Mazikov. In the back room, customers can buy a hive (1,600 rubles), pails, fencing masks to protect them from stings, special beekeeping clothes and bee medicine (the manufacturer's trademark shows a bee holding a syringe).

Mazikov was taking apart a hive with an amateur's glee when I noticed him.

He'd taken up beekeeping three years ago when he retired from building. As a child, he'd lived in the country and been at home with the bees.

Then, to his regret, he returned to Moscow.

"There was no need for me to learn how to build," Mazikov said, laughing in the way people sometimes do while complaining about the way their life has gone. "There was no need for completing of plans, no need for the profsoyuz [workers' union], no need for the party. ... I should have just stayed with the bees."

In order to facilitate his return to the bees, Mazikov went to beekeeping school - making honey is a bit more complicated than sticking your paw in the nest - three evenings a week for three months to learn the ancient art.

Then he went down to Leninsky Prospekt for a kilogram of bees (800 rubles) and a quarter of humbugs. (OK, I made the last bit up.)They sent the bees along in a bag - not a plastic bag bulging sideways, down, up and along - but a specially converted hive capable of carrying a few thousand bees at a time.

"You need to speak to them," said Mazikov, a small, balding man who rattled on about the bees with enthusiasm as he leaned against the hive. "You need to respect them, love them. ... Each one has its own temperament just like women."

"Some are nasty," he said with a cheeky grin as the shop assistant wandered over. "Others are free and easy-going."

But, although he has been inured against stings since his childhood, Mazikov still experiences the odd uncomfortable moment.

Laughing and wriggling with discomfort, he told me of how a bee once zoomed up his trouser leg and nearly succeeded in buzzing around his crotch before he stopped it.

Telling that story reminded him of a rather dirty joke about a man who wasn't so lucky, got stung and was then promptly accused of infidelity by his wife. I didn't get the punchline, but, by the look on Mazikov's naughty face and on the shop assistant's, it was pure filth.

The House of Honey (Dom Myoda) is located at 5/10 Novokuznetskaya Ulitsa, Building 1. Metro Novokuznetskaya. Tel. 951-1012. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.