The only thing crazier than learning you can buy a box of 3lbs, or approximately 10,000 honey bees in a box, is finding out that you can have them mailed to you (well at least to the post office for pickup). While I did not choose to have my bees mailed I still can’t help but laugh as I think about the look that would be on the small town Postal workers faces when a bee buzzing package with my name on it arrived. I can imagine I would hear about that for a while.
Nothing gets your heart pumping like trying to move 10,000 bees from one box to another!
Instead I drove an hour and a half to Kelley’s Bees and made a morning of it. It was a fun morning and included an odd mix of excitement and apprehension as many new beekeepers tried to not act nervous and not look like too much of a NewBee as they carried their box of 10,000 bees to their car for a memorable drive to their chosen bee yard. I remember the drive well. I tried to make sure that the bees stayed at a good temperature and listened to the constant buzz of 20,000 bees taking a ride in a minivan (I had 2 packages of 10,000). Beekeeping is a bit of a thrill seeker hobby and it starts right from the beginning when you buy your first package and install them into a hive for the first time. Nothing gets your heart pumping like trying to move 10,000 bees from one box to another (well…maybe seeing a hive swarm, but that is a story for another day)! Below is my clumsy attempt at hiving my first package. You may pick up on my nervousness as I check and double check that everything is set to go. These bees stayed and made my hive their new home and in about 3 days had released the queen from her cage (there is a candy plug keeping her in that the bees eat our as they get used to her as their new queen), therefore this was a success! Watch below to see how it went!
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.