On April 30, 1898, my grandfather, Ben Byer wrote in his diary, “got 1 swarm bees.” He was 15 and living near Glendale, Arizona. His future father in-law also had bees, and his grandpa helped some. His journal entries sound similar to all beekeepers with entries about getting swarms, and making hives. “I have 23 stands, made over some bee racks, and worked at honey house. Shot 6 bee birds.” “Papa went to Glendale, bought paint and I painted some hives, made racks and put on 4 supers.” “Extracted some” “I nailed together some bee hives.” “extracted and caned some honey.” “I extracted some honey and fixed my wax for sale.” By the time he was 20, there is an entry which says, “My crop is about 1,300lbs and increase from 23 to 38 colonies.”
Langstroth discovered bee space in 1851. Mehring invented a machine that made embossed wax foundation in 1857. The centrifugal extractor came along in 1865, and the bellows smoker in 1873. My grandfather was a “modern” bee keeper and the bee business was booming. In 1872 Gen. Allen brought bees from San Diego, California to Tucson, Arizona, and 30 years later The Arizona Daily Star reported that the bees were still doing well, even as swarms in the mountains. Perhaps these were the swarms my grandfather caught.
It’s amazing to me that 160 years later beekeepers are using the same equipment, although now you can buy plastic foundation. It was only colony collapse disorder, mites, hive beetles, pesticides, and neonicotinoids which made us question what are we doing to the bees. As the bees started to disappear, we started asking questions, experimenting with Top Bar Hives, and natural and organic ways of keeping bees.
As the classes come to an end, we have the information we need to be bee keepers, thanks to Jenny Bach and Richard Spiegel. We have the resources in Danielle, Lauren, Ethel, Scott, and the Big Island Bee Keepers Assoc. We have a way to keep in touch and support each other, thanks to Callie. It is time to get our hives, and find our bees. They will teach us the rest. As for me, I’m thinking it’s got to be in my genes.
Posted by Mary Ann Smiles
This project was funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
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