Posts Tagged ‘wax’

About honey bees and January… and April…

December 31, 2011

About honey bees and January… and April…

Beekeeping is funny, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a spring thing, right?  The flowers are blooming, gardens are growing, bees are buzzing, it’s an exciting, growing time. But to understand how “things bee” get started up in the spring, you have to go backwards into the winter, to see how things arrived at spring. For instance, honeybees finish up the summer season and go into the hive in the fall, where they cluster, and they do something akin to hibernating all winter long. Continuing beekeepers have to force themselves to sit on their hands all winter long–you can’t open up a hive in freezing temperatures, at least not with happy results.

New beekeepers, on the other hand, who are just getting started in the spring, have been planning for their brand new hives since the dead of winter. So these beekeepers discover that ordering bees should be done in January! The honey bee suppliers that I talk with are, like me, usually sold out of package bees by mid-March at the latest.  So new beekeepers are usually johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to ordering their first bees.

But consider the continuing beekeeper whose bees don’t overwinter. April is said to be the cruelest month in beekeeping, at least here in New England. Sometimes you see these hives flying in February, and again in March–but come April that hive is dead. That beekeeper did not even stand a chance when it came to ordering bees; and so, it’s not unusual for experienced beekeepers to order some packages of bees in January as “insurance”. Yes, that seems counterintuitive – if you think that’s odd, you’re right. January by rights is the month for sitting by the fire, and thumbing through your seed catalog, not for ordering honeybees.

The thing to know is this: if you are just beginning your beekeeping journey, be prepared to order package bees as early as possible. January is not too early. And if you are continuing your beekeeping journey, it is not a bad idea to order an insurance package, in the event that April does you wrong. The thing about having ordered a package in January, and then not needing it–is that now you have a cause for celebration! And a sad beekeeper, who didn’t order bees but then learned that their hive was gone in April, will celebrate too – and will be grateful to you when it turns out that you don’t need that package of bees.

So the moral is: order early, order often! It’s far more frustrating to need bees and not have them, then it is to have bees and not need them. I can almost guarantee you that somebody will be happy to get your “insurance package” when April rolls around. Of course, if your bees successfully overwintered, and now you have an additional colony, well – what part of this is a bad plan?

But when it comes to planning–if you think you *might* need bees–order bees. You’re not likely to be sorry. And besides, it’s a cheerful thing to think about bees when you’re huddling by the wood stove in January!

 

**For quality top bar beekeeping equipment, be sure to visit our webpage at http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com!**

A Christmas beekeeping blog…

December 25, 2011

Beekeeping.

Just what IS beekeeping? Is it art? Is it science? Is it magic? It’s notoriously difficult to define… Is it a hobby?  Is it a habit?  Is it an obsession?  Just what is it?

And what about those funny little bugs? Just what is it about bees?  They sting, yes – so it’s prudent to be cautious when you’re around them – but they only sting when they’re defending something?  Who knew? And it’s a kamikaze mission, that once-in- a-lifetime sting of a honeybee.  They never do it frivolously – it’s a life or death proposition for the honeybee.

Yet beekeepers can be seen standing, sitting, lounging in the vicinity of their hives for hours, and just… watching. That’s it – just watching the bees flying in and out of the hive. It’s mesmerizing.  It’s as if we think that if we watch long enough, we’re going to figure out their secret.

Truly, what we humans really know about honeybees is pretty limited. We cannot see inside the hive, we cannot see inside their minds, we barely even believe in a concept as advanced as a hive mind or a holistic super organism.

That’s probably one of the reasons that so much damage has been done – not only to the honeybee, but to our food system over the course of recent history. Because we don’t necessarily believe in magic or in a hive mind. We’re used to living isolated and alone, so how could this humble insect know, and live by, something so community-oriented, something so complex that we humans can’t understand it?

The honeybee has much to teach us about cooperation. Living and working together, taking only what we need, never damaging the planet that sustains us–but only ever helping and supporting it. We could go a long way on the things that we could learn from bees.

My Christmas wish to all of us would be this–that we take a lesson from the honeybees. That we learn to live in connection with the world around us–supporting and nurturing it, instead of industrializing and destroying it. That we learn to live in harmony with each other, recognizing the importance of each to the whole.

And as we take steps in that direction, we will find a sense of peace, of joy, of good will towards all men.

And that would make for a pretty good Christmas gift.


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