Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beekeeping Preparations: Emotional

So, as many of you know, we're expecting our two packages of bees to arrive next week.

To say that I'm nervous, excited and ... obsessed would be an understatement.  I have taken on preparation for the bees' arrival as if it was a full time job.  I've read books, poured over online forums, watched countless you tube videos, ordered more books, made lists (surprise, surprise) and have even been taken notes on 3x5 cards as if I'm in the process of writing a research paper (I'm not- I just know how forgetful I can be).  Can you say, "Bee nerd"?

The agreement between Jamey and I was that I would do the research, he would build the hives and be the bee man (the one who will work directly with the bees).  Envision Jamey suited up in his white hood and jacket at the hives and me standing across the yard with my bullhorn shouting instructions and taking notes.  Yeah, that will be us.  Note: add bullhorn to supply list.

This arrangement sounded perfect to me as I started my research, but now I find myself pretty jealous.  I received blueberry bushes in advance for my birthday- maybe I'll add a full bee suit to my Christmas list.  If I can wait that long.

So, why is it that I am positively bursting with nerves and excitement over this endeavor?  I mean, I was excited about chickens the year we first bought chicks- but nothing like this.  I've been contemplating this for days- hence my silence, oh, and having my head stuck in bee books.  I think why I'm so nervous/excited (an exhausting combination, thank you very much) is because I have grown to love and stand in awe of honey bees.  Through learning about them, I have been bowled over by their absolute amazing-ness!

I started out knowing very little.

1) bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers and turn it into honey...somehow
2) they sting
3) I love to eat their honey

I might have know a little more since I've read a couple kid books about bees with my children and watched The Magic School Bus: In a Beehive.  That was pretty much the extent of it.  But, if you're like me, don't feel bad.  You know that famous guy, Aristotle?  The one that was so smart?  Here are some of his writings about the workings of bees....

"The honeycomb is made from flowers and the materials for the wax they gather from the resinous gum of trees, while honey is distilled from dew and is deposited chiefly at the raisings of the constellations or when a rainbow in the sky."


"Some affirm that bees neither copulate nor give birth to young, that they fetch their young.  And some say that they fetch their young from the flower of the callyntrum; others assert that they bring them from the flower of the reed, others, from the flower of the olive."

Feel better?

One of the most impressive things about bees is their collective mindfulness of the colony as a whole.  They do whatever they need to do to ensure it's safety and survival.  Imagine if people acted a bit more like this.  Not only are they programmed to carry out very specific jobs at different points in their little lives (roughly 6 weeks long during the summer months), but they have been given the ability to make decisions.

Here is one of many, many, many examples I could give: A forager bee comes back to the hive with a belly full of nectar.  She sits near the entrance and waits for another bee (a receiver) to take it from her and put it where it belongs.  Depending on the number of seconds it takes for a receiver to appear, the forager will respond in different ways.  If the nectar is received too quickly, with other receiver bees standing around waiting, it's a sign the receiver/forager ratio is out of whack, so the forager takes to "shaking" receiver bees, triggering their instinct to step up and become a forager themselves (the next duty in line after receiving) and then does the waggle dance to show them where to go.  If the nectar is received in an appropriate amount of time, the forager just heads back out for another load.  If it takes too long, it's a sign that there aren't enough receiver bees and the forager will go deposit the nectar herself and then go shake younger bees to trigger their receiver job promotion and maybe receive herself for awhile to help out.

Need another example?  When a pollen forager comes back to the hive and deposits her pollen load in a cell, she will beg a little food from one of the nurse bees (who feed and care for the young).  Depending on the protein content of that little snack (pollen is their protein), the forager will decide if the snack was a little on the protein-weak-side, meaning she should keep collecting pollen, or switch over to collecting water or nectar if the protein content was too strong.

If you're bored silly, I do apologize.  If you find this fascinating, pick up one of these bee books and enjoy- even if you have zero plans on becoming a beekeeper.  Learning about these creatures just thrills me- how amazing is our Creator?!

The bees live in community with each other.  A healthy hive is a strong one.  And, just like with us human beings, negative influences from the outside world can impact their health and cause a breakdown.  There are certain things I can protect against- ants, mice, and skunks, for example.  But then there are many other influences that can weaken colonies that I feel helpless against.  I'm sure you've heard of their recent plight.  Beekeeping is not what it used to be.  Pesticides, GMOs, monoculture, mites, beetles, viruses, spores, and even cell phones have been named as culprits (just to name a few).  Many have been dis-proven when singled out but all together are hard on these sweet little bees.

I guess that's why I care so much about our bees succeeding.  Despite the threats, I want them to thrive.  They remind me of us.  While we're all clearly individuals with unique gifts, we could really learn a thing or two from the honey bee.  The world's me-focus, consumerism, greed, hate and lack of empathy break us down.  We're meant to live in community with each other- lifting each other up, putting each other first.

And this may be why I'm oozing honey and doing waggle dances in anticipation.  Imagine taking me out in public these days.  Say a little prayer for Jamey...will you please? Pin It


  1. What fun!!! I'm completely jealous. There must be an active hive near our school's playground. Often, if I'm nice and still, they will come land on me and I can study their little bodies. I agree. They are utterly fascinating creatures!

  2. You don't really need a full suit to join your hubby with the bees. I have a rather inexpensive hat/veil combo and gloves I ordered from Brushy Mtn. and these work fine with just regular pants and a long sleeve shirt. I generally wear a long sleeve white tee shirt or a zip up white hoodie I found at Walmart. My grown daughter and I have been keeping a several hives for 2 yrs now. She wanted a beekeeping jacket so I did get her one with the hood attached for her birthday. She likes to have the "offical" clothing whenever she's doing anything :-). I'm more of the whatever works without great expense mindset. Interestingly the state bee inspector showed up at a class I attended with just jeans and a short sleeve tee. He had no veil, gloves or any other beekeeping clothing. He had a hive tool and his own smoker and went right into a hive he'd never been in without getting stung. He's much braver than me, but since he does this for a living I guess he's confident! I've been in our hive without gloves as well, but I think it's a good idea to have covering. I have never been stung when opening our hives and the bees are usually really easy going. I have been stung when I was being an unsuited busybody around the hives AFTER we had opened and closed them back up. They are a little defensive while they settle back down after opening. We've also had my 9 yr old grandson help a time or too. He did have gloves and veil as well as a white disposable zip up suit we were given by a friend. You'll enjoy the bees. We did lose a hive this past winter. It's been an extremely hard year for beekeeping with some folks losing a high % of their bees. Don't get discouraged if you have some setbacks. It's so worth the effort and really important.

    1. Thank you for the encouragement! I don't have the best track record with stings (major swelling, irritation, etc.) so that's why I want covered. Jamey fairs much better and that's why he's going to be front and center (until I get a suit that is):-).

  3. I can TOTALLY relate!
    Our bees arrive this Saturday and we've been preparing
    for months now. Yep, we're newbies!
    Hopefully spring weather will arrive :)
    We're starting with two hives, medium supers, and Carnolian bees~

  4. How exciting! We started our two hives last year, and we have had some learning experiences! When my husband needs help, I don't have a suit either but wear a quilted flannel shirt (works well) with my work gloves (leather) and the extra (inexpensive) veil my husband bought. I couldn't work it without the veil!! We have found it very important for the person IN the hive to know the details of bees because you use that information to interpret what is happening -- capped larva? brood? drones? queen cells? etc. All those details then allow you to sit outside your hive and interpret activity better. We have also found the bees fascinating and captivating. I hope your efforts are blessed and your hives thrive! Have fun!

  5. If you have a Beekeeping Group in your area, I would HIGHLY recommend attending meetings. I love having dozens of beekeepers to question and pick their brains... so much better than just reading, as each hive will have it's own problems and challenges that may not be addressed in print (as we like to say, 'the bees didn't read the book!')

  6. How Exciting! Hey, if you were going to choose just one of the books you have to read, which would it be? I'd like to read up on bees, but I'm not planning to get any in the near future (it's illegal where I live).

    Good luck!


    1. Hmmm. If you want a faster, more entertaining (and humorous) read (but still educational), you might like Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper. If you think you want to go organic and want to learn more about the top bar hive, we have been really impressed with Les Crowder's Top Bar Beekeeping. Fruitless Fall reads like a mystery novel- a whodunit regarding Colony Collapse Disorder- it's fascinating. Beekeeping for Dummies (while I really dislike the name) is an excellent general guide to mainstream beekeeping (Langstroth style). Hopefully I've helped and not muddled the waters further for you!:-) Happy reading- honey bees are SO much fun to learn about!

  7. If you want a great uplifting article about the importance of bees and how they relate to our work of the Lord read Here:
    it's very enlightening!!

  8. Glory be to our creator!


  9. aw, this is so neat. I'm so excited for you. I'd love to walk down this path, too. Your enthusiasm is inspiring!

  10. I'm so excited with you; we hope to get our first of two hives this coming weekend! A friend from our local bee-keeping group is selling us a couple of nucs, so we are about to graduate from "Wanna-Bees" to "New-bees" ;)
    We attended a series of classes that our county extension did. The first man to teach talked about how a hive may contain several thousand bees but should be viewed as one organism. I thought that was a great illustration of I Corinthians 12!

  11. Our Church is getting bees next week! Our Vet is donating them and we are completely new to this but have been reading up on it for months. I understand your enthusiasm. I just did a post on some kid-oriented bee info here I'm gonna check out the magic school bus for our kids now! Loved hearing about your bee journey so far, will be checking back for updates!


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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