First things first, I am terrified of bees. Not to the point of having a phobia, but enough raw fear that every memory I have of them involves flinching or running. My earliest memory of them was when I was stung after stepping on one on my front yard. Add in a childhood friend convincing me that bee stings would kill you and the foundation was set for a lifelong fear of an insect no bigger than a half dollar.
Trust me, it’s not something I’m proud of.
So it must have come as a shock when I mentioned to my friends and family a sudden interest in beekeeping.
How it all got started:
There’s been a lot of attention paid to bees in recent years. The sudden impact of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) skyrocketed society’s interest in them. Many new beekeepers became interested as a result. I, however, knew nothing about CCD or the sudden decline of commercial beekeeping until I was already involved.
Makes me think I need to read the paper more often.
My entrance into the science of keeping bees was completely lackluster.
About two years ago, my father and I flew to Fort Meyer, FL to play golf with my uncle and his ex-brother-in-law. During breakfast one morning, the ex-brother-in-law broke out a jar of honey for our toast and I was blown away by the taste. When I asked him about it, he said it was from the beekeepers to whom he leased some of his Michigan farmland. Apparently the bees worked the Russian Thistle (a flower he had planted) and he got some of their product as a bonus. This stuff was good, better than anything store-bought for sure.
We talked about it for a moment and then he went into the science of the hive. He told me about the queen and her pheromones, how forager bees take orientation flights, and how shocking it is to watch a hive swarm. The more he went on about it, the more fascinated I became.
Fast forward eighteen months. I spent my time reading everything I could get my hands on regarding backyard beekeeping. (On a side note, a couple great books I’d recommend are Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackistone, The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum, and anything by Roger Morse. They are fantastic starting points for anyone interested in this sport. Believe me, checking on a hive can be a workout for us newbies.)
Anyway, after a year and a half of research, I decided to take a beekeeping course through the local club. In my case, this was with the Beekeeper’s Association of Northern Virginia (BANV). They are a great crew of knowledgeable individuals and they teach one heck of a introductory course. Anyone in the Northern Virginia area who’s interested, I recommend visiting their website at http://www.beekeepersnova.org.
After the class, I built the hive and bought the bees. Surprisingly, corralling 20,000 females into a box was easier than I thought. More on that experience later.
This blog is more or less designed to be a venting place for some of the interesting experiences, stupid antics, and fun facts I’ve learned in my short career as an amature beekeeper. More importantly, however, it’s a place for anyone that is interested in this sport (and yes, I consider it one since you play defense against 60,000 ladies) to congregate, discuss, and share their experiences as well.
That bee-ing said, let’s get the ball rolling.
(Yeah, I can guarantee there will bee more bad puns in the future. It’s genetic).