Beekeeping 101

By day I’m a writer.  By other days, I’m a beekeeper, or beek, as those in the beekeeping world would call me.  One might find my fascination with bees unusual in light of my toxic reaction to their stings.  Nonetheless, these beauties have captured my fancy.  It wasn’t always this way. There was a time, like many others I know, when I was afraid of bees.

Several years back, an article about honeybees caught my attention.  German physicist Albert Einstein once warned that should honeybees disappear, so would our global food supply. “No more bees … no more men,” he said. So when I read about Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybees, I became concerned.  Huge percentages of the nations honeybees were dying and nobody knew the cause.  Over the last five years, studies would show that we have lost nearly 50% of the nations honeybees.  This past year demonstrates an average loss of 45%

Wa103nting to do my small part to help, I began researching beekeeping and joined numerous beekeeping groups.  As my knowledge of honeybees grew, my fear lessened.  I decided I would make my own personal contribution by keeping one small hive of bees.  Little did I know what the future held for me.

My first “hands on” experience in beekeeping was working with a mentor on a bee tree trapout.  An area homeowner had a wild hive in a tree near his house and wanted the bees removed rather than exterminated.  I was only too happy to help.  I received my first sting on the first day out.  Quick action and being prepared with medical supplies prevented the day from being a disaster.  My mentor and I were able to work together and set the trap in place.  Little did I know it would be a long three month wait for those bees to exit the hive and settle in to their new home.

Over the summer I gained some terrific hands on experience, which to me, is much better than le
arning from a book or classes.  My mind wraps itself more fully around the experience.  The next bees I brought home were from a shed floor cut out.  My inexperience lead me to believe I could IMG_0910rock that like
a superstar.  I ended up calling in three other beekeepers to assist once I cut into the floor and had a visual on the size of the colony.  That cut out took two full days, repeated stings and lots of sweat.

To wrap up my summer of beekeeping, I received one more call.  Another homeowner, more bees.  Except these bees were already in hives and had been abandoned by the previous homeowner several years prior.  It seemed like I was finally going to get some bees the easy way.

I drove out to the pasture where the hives had settled into dirt and weeds.  A distant study of the hive activity and the condition of the hives assured me this would be a quick and painless removal.  Less than five minutes later I had a hive on the back of the truck, ready to head out.  I returned the next day with another beekeeper for the second hive. That hive would be going home with the other beek.

As Murphy’s law would dictate, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.  The bees had outgrown the hive they were in and needed to be rehomed.  This would require me taking the original hive apart simply to get them out.  Without going into all the painful, boring details, after much work, these bees were in their new living quarters and thriving.  Needless to say, when I’m working a hive, I’m always fully suited up, often in layers of clothes.

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By summer’s end, not only do I have three full, thriving hives of my own, I had sufficient bees to fill the hives of three fellow beekeepers.  We’re all just doing our part to keep our pollinators from extinction.

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