I read The Secret Life of Bees by Kidd, Sue Monk [Hardcover] (Google Affiliate Ad) years ago and, along with enjoying the story itself, I really loved the excerpts about bee "culture" that the author sprinkled throughout. I have always been an animal lover. I have also always had a fascination with observing creatures in their natural habitat (I even went to a lecture held by Jane Goodall when I was in college). I think what has got me most excited about the prospect of bee keeping is being able to observe bee culture first hand.
The Beekeeping 101 talk we attended this morning was the perfect introduction for us. We learned some of the history of beekeeping and about the anatomy of the hive.
We discussed the different kinds of bees and the rolls they each play.
- The queen lays the eggs
- The workers...well, work
- The drones come from unfertilized eggs yet are the guys who go on to fertilize the queen. They are blocked out of the hive at the end of each season and all die off each year.
He touched on inspecting the hives, feeding the bees, collecting the honey, tools/equipment we would need, etc.
We also learned some fun and interesting facts. Like, how a colony makes/raises their own queen. When the worker bees sense the need for a new queen, they feed a group of eggs extra doses of a substance called "royal jelly" and whichever bee emerges first becomes the new queen. He also said that if a wasp or other flying "stranger" makes it into a hive, the worker bees will kill it and throw it out immediately. Another interesting fact is that a queen is fertilized by many drones during one "outing" early in her life and is fertilized for life. She can lay eggs from that one fertilization over several seasons.
I know that this stuff isn't for everyone but I just find it fascinating. How they communicate with pheromones and have a community with hierarchy, a security system, food collection/production, etc. Pretty neat stuff if you ask me! For someone who has always loved observing people, animals and other creatures, beekeeping is sure to become a very interesting hobby for me. I am also excited to be able to spread the love by giving honey as gifts around the holidays and selling it at our local farmer's market.
I think at this point we have decided that we will wait and start a couple of hives next Spring. We feel like that will give us the chance to spend the upcoming year researching and educating ourselves as much as possible so we will have a good chance for success right out of the gate.
Ayden did great with my parents while we were away. I called my dad when we were on our way home and he said, "He's been perfect. I wore him out and your mom put him to sleep." We came home to find him napping peacefully on my mom while she enjoyed snuggling him.
We spent the rest of the day unpacking more boxes (we only have a few left!) and then had a delicious dinner and long overdue visit with our friends Whit, Kellen and Baby Girl. After dinner, Ayden got the crazies and was hamming it up and giggling for all of us. He didn't even fall asleep on the way home, he just jabbered away for the whole ride.
Tomorrow is going to be more of the same, unpacking and arranging of STUFF... We may try to venture to our storage unit so we can cover some of the furniture and take a bit of inventory of what exactly ended up there.