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07 July, 2016

Save The Bees

Mama's been up to an awful lot recently.  If she's not hitting the gym, cleaning/designing/planning her new house, gardening, swimming, running around to meetings, creating beautiful things (rugs, baskets, paintings...), she's bee-keeping!! I've always had a strange feeling that I'm allergic to bees. but I've never been stung (*knock on wood*) nor been tested for it so, call me crazy, but I've thereby also always been wary and scared of them.  I fully understand, mass amounts more now after having gone along with her to the course, the vital role and great importance bees play in the world and I cannot, to the best of my mental ability (no jokes here guys, let's play nicely ;) ) recall a time in my life in which I have ever killed a bee.  Wasps, yes, African Killer bees which I grew up with in Arizona, yes...but good 'ol, hard-working honey bees? Not one.  

I think my fear of bees was also highly influenced by the fact that we did have a lot of African Killer bees during my time in The States and apart from them whiping out all of the good bees, they are, as you may have been able to guess from either their name or of the knowledge you may possess on them, deadly--especially for children.  I had a few encounters with the people surrounding me being stung by one of the insects listed above and them having a terrible physical and/or medical  reaction that has stuck with me.  Going to this bee-keeping course was as much to spend time with Mama and experience one of the hobbies she's become fond of as it was to confront my fear head-on and to learn more about these amazing creatures.  Thankfully, I can say that I managed all of the above and hope to provide some insight and share some information to you lovely readers based on my experience here.

After all introductions were made, I spritzed some vinegar on my hands and the tops of my feet (any exposed skin) and jumped into my cool little bee-keeping gear (note: new sunnies in tow!), zipped up, and was (cautiously) ready to go!! We wandered over to the bees and I was quite quickly told where NOT to stand--mainly in their main point of entry and exit.  Bees rarely, unless they are genetically temperamental or in protection-mode over either their Queen or their honey, sting unless they get brushed the wrong way/squeezed so I made sure to keep an eye on where they were on my body to make sure none of us got rubbed the wrong way! 

Dried out Tansies, when set ablaze, produce the kind of smoke that calms the bees. When opening up the boxes with a tool to help lift them out of place, we puffed a bit of smoke into them before handling the frames where they were producing honey or laying Drone larvae (males, who are not worker bees and have a higher risk of swarming), where all those pesky mites that nobody wants anywhere also lay their eggs,  to see what was to be removed, added to, and overall just to check how they were doing.  They were always very careful to make sure that they weren't pressing any bees while handling the frames, and simply brushed them off with a small broom in order to properly examine them.

Empty frames, referred to as "Drone panels/frames" with steel wires are put into the hive are put in to get rid of the Mites and Drone larvae that are brought into the hive. Because Drones take a few days longer to develop than the worker bees and Mites develop and reproduce disgustingly fast, this means that they can remove as many unwanted larvae as possible in one go.  These are kept separate from other parts of the hive and they tend to go in there simply because there is the most room for them to be able to create their wax "holders" to put their larvae and when drone trap frames are planted, the colony is a lot less likely to produce drone cells in other parts of the colony.  Mites can cause serious health problems for the bees so it is of utmost importance to ensure that they do not infiltrate and infect.  

One of the hives was overall much easier to handle and much better tempered than the other.  The positive hive was also extremely productive overall but was specifically so in comparison to the other which has made very little honey.  Not to mention, leagues ahead of them in honey production.  Eventually, what they will do is try to locate and kill the Queen Bee and replace her with a new one who is genetically better.   If a Queen paired herself with a not-so-nice Drone, the offspring are likely to follow in its footsteps and the hive collectively suffers.  

There are roughly 20-60,000 bees per hive and the number they gave me on the hive they opened up to check on and to remove the drone frames from was at a whopping 50,000!!  I will admit, to say that there were a lot of bees did seem like the understatement of the year!!

Everyone was very calm, highly educated on the matter and more than willing to answer my slew of never-ending questions, was in a great mood, and hadn't the slightest idea that I was even afraid of bees!! I guess I did pretty damn good then!! I think being so close to them in some strange way, helped.  Especially all the while I was being fed information on these creatures and exactly how much they contribute to our lives and how remarkably important it is for us to take care of and respect them.

I believe one of the biggest flaws in humankind to be that many, when they do not understand something, they develop a fear, and often with fear, comes hatred.  The tattoo I have on my back ("I light my candles from their torches") being an important reminder for me to constantly fight against this and o remember to spread hope from the ignorance of others and learn wherever I can, especially in the areas where I am admittedly unaware, fearful, or lacking. 

A massive, massive thank you to everyone for letting me tag along, for your patience, willingness, and great sense of humour.   Big thanks and much love for all of my newly-discovered little friends for being such ultimate badasses of nature and letting me into your space!! I can't wait until next time!!


It was a big day because they got their first official honey extractor to prepare for the weeks ahead! 


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