Beecoming a newbee beekeeper (too much?)

Hopefully there’s a chapter on how not to get stung.


Here are a few fun facts about honey bees that will make you love honey even more:

  • The queen lays around 1,200 eggs a day.
  • One honey bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • Honey bees pollinate 80 percent of all vegetables, fruit and seed crops in the U.S.
  • Ninety-eight percent of all commercial hives are sent to California each year to pollinate almond trees. (Hence, why almonds are so pricey!)

These were just a few of many fascinating things I learned about honey bees at a beekeeping class at our local honey store (yes, we have one!) called Montana Honey Bee Company. I’ve wanted to keep bees for about 10 years or so, but really started considering it two years ago when we moved to a house that didn’t have any restrictions against livestock, which bees are considered by many homeowner covenants. So, I went to the the class this weekend with the thought that I would at least glean some information about beekeeping, but not commit to it unless I was sure.

My only previous experience with beekeeping came about 10 years ago when I was editor of an East Texas magazine and visited an apiary so I could write about the local beekeeping club. Beekeeping wasn’t really a thing there yet, so it seemed exotic and daring to me. While all the beekeepers were wearing veils and gloves, I was standing there without any protection, hoping one of the members would have brought me some kind of covering. But, no one did and soon I realized the bees had made a beeline (really, I have more of these) right toward my hair. I tried not to panic because I remembered that kid in “Jerry Maguire” had said something about how dogs and bees can smell fear. Then I realized the buzzing had gotten REALLY loud and the beekeepers’ eyes had gotten REALLY big. One woman calmly told me to walk toward my car and as I did she and another “beek” began smashing bees into my hair.

It wasn’t until I got to my car that I realized I had been stung a couple of times. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but I was going to a baby shower after the interview and I didn’t want my neck to swell where I had been bitten. I stopped for some antihistamine  tablets on the way to the shower and popped two even though I generally don’t take pills.That’s pretty much all I remember once the pills kicked in.

ANYWAY, that of course made me want bees even more. To get revenge.

Just kidding! Really, I’m concerned about our bees. On average, we lose a third of the honey bee population every year to disease and other factors. If I can do something to help ensure our food security, even if it’s a small step, I’ll give it a go. If enough of us join in, that’s a huge step.

So, I have about 40,000 new pets due to arrive in May (Carniolan honey bees, if you’re interested in knowing the breed). In the meantime, I’m reading as much as I can, trying to decide what type of hives and such I need and watching every hive installation video I can find so I can be prepared for THE BIG DAY. Steve Thornson, owner of the honey shop who taught the class, said it would be a day we would never forget.

I hope he meant that in a good way.


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