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This ends my fourth year of beekeeping. The bees are safely tucked away in their hives until Spring with plenty of honey to last the winter.
My journey into beekeeping wasn’t as well planned as I would have liked. I truly wanted to keep bees at some point, but like many of you, I was scared to death of bees! (Just a bit of an obstacle).
Wintertime is when I take classes to further my endeavors on the farm, and beekeeping was certainly on that list. I’ve read many books and attended many classes about bees. Personally, I initially felt that beekeeping was difficult to understand, every author and teacher seemed to say something different. Sometimes, it seemed that everyone was speaking Greek, seriously.
Then during a beekeeping class that I attended at THE Ohio State University farm exhibit, I listened to a geneticist teach about a new breed of bees. Fortunately, I was able to speak with him afterwards, and he gave me some great advice. I told him that I was a new beekeeper and felt like I just wasn’t able to get my arms around this thing. He said “Throw all of your beekeeping books away and buy these four books. One is a large text book. Go home and read them cover to cover. When you understand the biology of bees and what they are trying to accomplish, you will understand your role as a beekeeper”.
So, I did exactly as he said. I purchased these four books, in case you wanted to know. I read them and I continue to read them, and he was right. I’ve only added one other book to my beekeeping book collection. I now understand what the bees are trying to do, and so my role as a beekeeper is to improve their conditions and to manage the hives….but they do all the work.
The bees do not need me, they merely invite me to observe and demand my respect in the process.
What a revelation! My beekeeping took off at that point, and what I would have termed as “fear” turned to “respect” for their home (the hive), their children (the brood) and their environment.
Bees are so incredible. They govern themselves like a well-oiled machine. Everything they do is about the survival of that hive and to protect the next generation. The queen is the ultimate protected bee, primarily because she lays eggs (the next generation) all day, every day. As a matter of fact, she is so busy laying thousands of eggs, that nurse bees will groom and feed her, so that she can focus on her business.
The hive cannot survive without the queen. She directs all activity in the hive, without her the hive dies. The queen is the gene pool for all the brood, which makes it all the more critical to have a healthy and local queen.
I could go on all day about how incredibly cool bees are! But let me get to the reason I keep bees.
I originally thought I would keep bees because of the honeybee crisis, and an overall shortage of bees. Pollination would be the next reason, without bees we will have very little food ourselves to eat. Honey would be the very last reason. Today, I keep bees for all of those reasons, but I would add that keeping bees helps me to see my farm and surroundings with different eyes.
Honeybees have all sorts of problems, to be sure, from herbicides/pesticides, predators and poor management by humans. But probably the greatest problem, in my mind, that they have is finding food.
Urbanization has destroyed so much foliage that we just took for granted a generation ago. People keep tearing down forests and wild areas to build yet another subdivision. Acres of farm land, especially here in Ohio, have been torn down in order to erect more buildings.
This is a death sentence for bees and other pollinators. No species can survive without food. This is my mission, and this is why I keep bees.
I can’t control what the rest of the world does, but I can control what happens on my 10 acres. Pollinators are my top consideration with every decision I make on the farm. No chemicals are used on my bees, only natural methods and essential oils.
Educating folks about bees is my mission. You can do so much to help bees, without ever becoming a beekeeper! Here’s a couple of thoughts….
- I am careful to buy plants and flowers from reputable garden centers, and NOT big box stores. Why? Big box stores spray their flowers with pesticides, because consumers don’t like bees when they’re shopping. YO! What’s up with that thinking?!!! If you don’t see bees on flowers, DO NOT BUY THEM! If my bees land on such a flower, they will die and maybe even take residual poison back to the hive and hurt other bees. Always ASK if a garden center sprays with neonics (short for pesticides that kill bees). If they look puzzled or don’t know, there’s your answer. Shop elsewhere.
2. Limit your use of household pesticides! Again, they contain neonics! Do you really need to spray every bug you see? Probably not, we just need to retrain our thinking. If you have a major sized wasp nest, then ok, do what you have to do, but please hose the entire area down afterwards so that pollinators don’t land on it.
So, that’s why I keep bees. Because they’re cool….and I need them a lot more than they need me.