I always wanted to be a beekeeper. When my husband and I retired to North Carolina, we were finally able to pursue our dream. We began our quest rather naively.
Even though Honey Bee School would be in our future, it was only offered once a year – January. Since we made the decision to raise bees in April we thought that perhaps we could get our bees going first and then attend school in the winter. We did a bit of research, set up our bees and commenced ‘raising’ them. We thought we did all the right things – feeding them and treating them for mites. Everything was fine until one day in late October when we walked out to the bee yard. They were all dead.
We were devastated. We were also so ‘green’ that we couldn’t even tell why they died. We still wanted to raise bees, so we enrolled in Honey Bee School and began again. Wow! There is a lot to learn, but it is also a very fun and rewarding hobby.
My experience with bees previously has been to see them in the almond orchards in Northern California. The boxes were always white. So, I was delighted to learn that the beehives can be colorfully painted and decorated. I painted flowers, and honey bees dragonflies on the front entrances of our hives so that each one is unique. The unique designs help the bees know which one is theirs when they return from a foraging flight. As a side note, it turns out that dragonflies eat bees, but my artwork is not realistic enough to cause them alarm.
With the help of our mentors, we are now certified Bee Keepers and have just enjoyed our first honey harvest.
Speaking of honey, I just read an interesting study that demonstrated eating honey daily could reduce the risk of developing dementia. Additional research suggests that it might offer the most benefit if taken at night. According to Benefits-of-Honey.com, taken at bedtime, honey can help ease stress hormones which, in turn, helps us get that ever-elusive better night’s sleep.
Honey bees, it turns out, are amazing little creatures. Researchers have discovered by observing bees in a colony, that “When older honeybees take on tasks usually handled by younger bees, aging of their brains is effectively reversed”.
My husband and I have also noticed a surprising aspect of beekeeping – the need for concise language. When we open up a hive, we want to be as quick and efficient as possible (bees don’t love us when we check on them). In the middle of taking apart a beehive, surrounded by a cloud of buzzing bees it is important for us to ‘use our nouns’. If I need Wayne to add more smoke, I say something like, “More smoke!”. If I can’t think of the word ‘smoke’, I may stumble around and say something like “white stuff!” or “puffs”….meanwhile, the sound of the hum is getting louder and louder, and louder.
We love keeping bees. Not only are we learning new things, but we are also meeting new people. Along with our beekeeping mentors from bee school, we have met many others who are willing to interact with little insects that can potentially sting you. There is also a monthly meeting that draws folks from all around our county.
The more we learn, the better we can be in helping both bees and ourselves. It’s a wonderful circle of joy.