Monday, April 11, 2016

Our Son the Beekeeper

“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.


Tara said...

oh, good for them! I know a couple of people who keep bees. I am highly, deadly even, allergic so of course I wouldn't consider it. But I am glad there are people like your son who are taking care of our bee population.

they are tiny, yet integral to our planet's very existence. Weird, huh?

Barbara Rogers said...

What a wonderful uplifting story...and I love how the bees get to chew through candy and then a marshmellow...some bee keepers figured everything out in transporting a colony! GOod for your son and all who are supporting him. I sell pottery all summer next to a booth that sells honey, which has become twice as expensive in the last few years.

NanaNor's said...

I have several friends who have hives for honey bees and I'm thankful. Since we live in a golf course community, we can't have them here. Kuddos to your son for helping preserve a natural resource.
Hugs, Noreen

Ms. A said...

Very interesting and congrats to your son!

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

It's so good to see more and more people learning about bee keeping! We all know that there are so many good reasons to keep bees and provide a place for pollinators like Mason bees. Bees need our help (and we need them!) and I really applaud your son for taking this on and helping to make a difference, I hope they do well!

Nance said...

Thanks for the heads-up about providing havens for Mason Bees. We will do just that on our lake property once we finally get a break in this weather.

A good friend of mine is a beekeeper in Virginia, and thanks to her, I am a champion of buying local, natural honey. It is not always an easy thing to do, but it's a little Mission of mine. Here's to your son for doing his part in a big way towards stabilizing our environment.

Lowcarb team member said...

Yes bees are so important to our environment.
Lovely photo of your son the bee-keeper, sensibly dressed of course - I wish him every success with this important venture.

Hope this new week has started well for you.

All the best Jan

Arkansas Patti said...

That was interesting about the queen being in a candy cage. They are such facinating creatures. I had a college biology professor that was in love with bees and soon had all of us in his boat.
I do have some fruit trees so I may get some Mason bee boxes. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful. Congratulations to your son and daughter-in-law for taking on such an important task. A couple of years ago, when we were still living in the Sierra foothills, our neighbors had neglected their beehives. We noticed the bees swarming our hummingbird feeder. So, we made some nice shallow bowls of sugar water and lined the bottom with rocks so the bees could safely drink. We kept them nourished until the neighbor fixed his hives. Really glad to have helped these little workers survive.

Busy Bee Suz said...

WOW. I'm so impressed with your son! This is something we've talked about doing, but haven't pulled the trigger yet. (I'm currently knee deep in milkweed trying to help the monarch population though) I'm going to look into the mason bee boxes; I've not heard of these and surely it's doable. Thanks for the great post and for raising a 'thinker'!!!

Vicki Lane said...

May they have every success with their bees! I'm always happy when I see our wild bees working the various blooms.

KB said...

What a wonderful son you have! I bet he's going to have lots of fun with it. We've both been interested in bee-keeping but the bears will tear down the hives without electric fencing around it, so we've hesitated. I wish your son great success!!!!

I'd love to hear the sound of all the bees in the back of his SUV :)

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

KB - Yes, even in WI the beekeepers had to build electric fences around the hives. Pretty elaborate ones at that.