“Mankind will not survive the honeybees’ disappearance for more than five years.” So said Albert Einstein many decades ago. Since that time the honeybee population in the world has declined dramatically. This decline affects everyone from the farmer to the consumer. No other animal or insect plays a greater role in the ability of farmers and growers to produce the fruits and vegetables we often purchase without a second thought.
So I was delighted last summer when our son mentioned that he planned to take classes in bee keeping and build the hives to start keeping bees. A friend of his was pleased to provide the space on his mini-farm underneath his apple trees and near fields with clover. A great spot for the bees and great for the apple trees as well. Thus, the journey began.
All went well. The hives were placed and the bees ordered. They came as promised a week or so ago when the Indiana weather should have been favorable for placing them in the hives. Mother Nature did not cooperate. A sudden cold spell chilled the air and made the freezing nights far too cold for the new active bees. So the bees were kept in my son's basement for a week. He fed them sugar water and worried about how they would do. More experienced bee keepers assured him the week's delay should not matter.
The weather finally improved and yesterday our son and his wife drove the bees to the farm. Quite an experience to hear all those bees buzzing in the back of the SUV. They sent me a video of the bees in the back and they were surprisingly loud.
Donning his protective gear our son placed the bees in the hives. He was delighted to see both the queens in their little cages moving about and active.
NOTE: The queens come in little cages, closed off with candy. The bees and the queens do not recognize each other. So the bees will eat through the candy. By the time they eat through and the queen is free, her pheromones will become familiar and they will recognize her as their queen.
Our son the bee keeper
Photograph taken by our daughter-in-law
The hives are closed off so the bees must remain inside for several days. They have sufficient sugar water to live on until they get out. The hole the bees will use for entering and exiting the hive is stuffed with a marshmallow. By the time the bees consume the marshmallow it will be time for them to fly freely in the open air.
I am so pleased when I hear one more person has taken up bee keeping as a hobby. No longer can we rely on professionals to supply all the bees we need. Individuals are also encouraged to keep bees. We all depend on them. And I do love honey.
We do not have honeybees. But we do have boxes for Mason Bees. While they produce no honey and do not require any work, they are great pollinators and very useful to have around. If you have flowering trees or gardens, place some Mason Bee boxes in the trees. Mason Bees do not sting and will not damage your trees. You can order boxes for them from almost any gardening site. Or build your own if you are handy. If every one of us would keep Mason Bees, it would help with pollination. And kudos to those of you who keep honeybees. You are doing all of us a great service.
In hiving his bees, our son was stung only once. And it's actually supposed to be a good thing for bee keepers to occasionally get stung by their bees.