I didn’t always love bees, in fact most my life I hated them, or so I thought. As a kid I spent my summers working and camping at a campground in an old apple and pear orchard that had many “bees” and each summer I managed to get stung. Once I even got woken out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night to a “bee” sting. Turns out however, I didn’t hate honey bees, I hated the yellow jackets and wasps that gave them such a bad name. Now I find myself correcting people when they try calling these dirty little monsters (yellow jackets) “bees.” Yes, I understand…honey bees CAN still sting, but most of the fear and hate people have for honey bees is caused by other stinging wasps, not the honey bee.
…before I got my bees I was told, “Welcome to the addiction!” ….now I understand.
So what turned the tide from hate to love for bees? I think that it can be traced back to a biology professor I had in college. It was a night class and I had a teacher who loved learning, much like myself, and who could really get going on a tangent, again this sounds familiar, and one night he talked about honey bees. I found it fascinating that the queen bee can lay fertilized eggs or unfertilized eggs on demand and that she used this to create either male drones (from unfertilized eggs) or female worker bees (fertilized eggs). Then he explained further that the only difference between a fertilized egg turning into a female worker bee and a queen bee is simply the size of the honey comb cell the egg is placed in and the food it is given as a larva. I remember thinking, “Wow so you could change a worker into a queen by simply changing the size of its cell (come to find out now this is the basic idea behind raising your own queens).” These few bee facts sparked an interest in the workings of bees that never died.
Several years later while taking our kids to a science museum I stopped by their observation hive (active hive with glass sides for viewing) and was mesmerized by the bees, each doing their own thing, but working as part of something much bigger. This is when I started thinking that keeping bees would be pretty awesome. That Christmas my wife bought me a book on beekeeping and I was completely hooked. I missed out on my opportunity to buy bees that spring (because I should have pre-ordered them in the winter) and regretted it once spring rolled around. I made a commitment to order bees the next winter and work out the details (where to keep them and how to do it) when spring came and that is exactly what I did. Making up for lost time I quickly went from a plan of having one hive to actually ordering three.
I am so glad that I took the leap and ordered bees and my hives before I had it all figured out…..because with bees it seems like you never have it all figured out! I am loving it and can’t get enough. At a beginners “bee school” before I got my bees I was told, “Welcome to the addiction!”…. now I understand.