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The Bees

My Beekeeping Hobby

(A work in progress)

In the spring of 2009, I stepped into a cloud of honeybees and knew I was hooked. There is nothing quite like the enveloping hum of thousands of bees. I kid you not, it was a little surreal.

Terrie and I found a very experienced beek who had agreed to sell us a couple of hives and get us started. I bought a copy of Beekeeping for Dummies and studied up on the subject.

Most beekeepers will tell you that you need to learn to work your hives bare-handed. It gives you a lighter touch with the bees who are very adverse to rough handling. As you can see in the picture, I paid them heed – but only for the first year. You see, my new hives were not fully populated until the end of the summer. There were only a few thousand bees in each box. And they are very docile in the spring time – especially when they are busy building a new home. After all, there is not much to protect – yet. By summer’s end, though, the colonies were up to 20 or 30 thousand and they had their winter stores to protect, so out come the gloves.

Both my hives survived the first winter. I came to find out that many beekeepers in our area had lost their colonies over the winter. I attribute my good fortune to having given then a double deep brood chamber – Plenty of room for honey and pollen storage.

Most folks don’t know that honeybees are quite docile when out gathering nectar or pollen. They are not aggressive unless protecting the hive. And even then, it is not a problem to walk right up to within just a few feet of their hive and have no problems. Yellowjackets and wasps are much more aggressive than bees. Yellowjackets are carnivorous. They will sting you with one end and take a bite with the other. They are of the family Vespidae whereas honeybees are in the family Apidae. Don’t misunderstand, though. Get a colony of bees riled up, and you’ll be in world of hurtin’.

Early in 2011, my neighbor called to say that a swarm had gathered in a tree near their house. I was all over that. When bees have swarmed, they are at their most docile. They are seldom provoked when clustered on a branch. Ever see those silly pictures of people covered in bees? It’s not really as creepy as you might think. (Not that I have ever done this myself, mind you.) Those bees will crawl all over without stinging (unless you slap at them). Of course then… letting any small insect crawl all over you from head to toe might be defined as creepy without further qualification.

I caught that swarm and it became my third hive. They won’t produce much this year. This will be a year of building for them. I just want them to draw brood comb for the queen and build stores for the winter, so I won’t rob that hive this year.

It is a fascinating hobby. I am blessed to be relatively unaffected by their venom. I have very little reaction to it. And yes, I get stung occasionally – several times a year. And yes, it hurts, but only for a minute or less. I hardly have a red mark to show for it an hour later. I was once lifting a one of the brood chambers for an inspection. A portion of my upper arm was exposed and one of my bees found it. I literally watched her drive here little stinger in. I was carrying a heavy brood chamber at the time and had no choice but to stand and watch. A minute later, though, the sting was gone and there was very little sign of any problem. As I said, I am blessed in this way.

You might be wondering where these pictures came from. Terrie took all of these photographs. You would get a kick out of seeing her barge right into a big cloud of bees to get a good shot. She is fearless.

And of course, you can’t forget the queen. She is the big one right in the middle of the picture above.

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