Buzzing About Bees


Saturday night, I took a beekeeping class.

I didn't think--and that belief was reinforced--that we would be ready for a hive this year.  Our backyard is not small, but it's not acreage.  And while I don't believe urban beekeeping is inherently dangerous, having a toddler about (who can't be allergy tested until he's two and is just barely starting to understand the difference between his mama's "annoyed" no and her "I've-spent-too-many-sleepless-night-raising-you-to-let-you-kill-yourself-now" no) adds an element of risk I'm just not ready for.

But I wanted to take the class anyway, just to see how I would do.  I've never had an experience like that before--opening a hive, remaining calm while working with tens of thousands of potentially stinging insects--so I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not.  I figured it was better to know now if I was totally going to freak out, rather than mooning over hives and bee catalogs for another year first.

The verdict?  This was the coolest thing I have done in a very long time!  

All suited up--in a veil, gloves, long pants, and long sleeves--I felt very safe.  And once the safety concerns are out of the way, bees are so incredibly fascinating!

Acting on instinct and at the direction of their queen, they do everything just as it needs to be done to ensure their survival.  From the lifespan of a worker (the oldest ones are the foragers, that way they die outside the hive and don't have to be carried out), to the treatment of drones (freeloaders that get kicked out when the food stores get low)--each behavior has a specific purpose.

A couple who was taking the class with me were actually taking bees home that evening, so part of the class was making a "split" (turning one hive into two) for them.  In order to ensure that they were getting a functioning hive, a "Where's Waldo?" type game of find-the-queen ensued.  (Fun fact:  A queen lays about 2000 eggs a day, which are needed to replenish the hive population.  Without a queen, a hive can die pretty quickly.)

The hive we were working was a bit of a mess.  According to our teacher, the frames weren't spaced correctly in the fall, so the bees had built comb in places they shouldn't have.  However, it was a very healthy hive nonetheless, completely teeming with bees.

By the time we were done with the hands-on part of the class, I was enjoying watching a few bees climbing on my veil.  I couldn't figure out how to take a picture without risking a bee inside my veil, but I was literally eye-to-eye with them.  I've never had a chance to study a bee that closely before.
And, of course, the class ended with a sweet treat--honey, fresh from the hive.  

It was an awesome class.  While it won't happen this year--and we're still "waiting and seeing" about next--some time soon, I will have bees.  If you'll forgive the pun, I've believe I've been stung!