For several years I have known that I want to be a beekeeper. I became infatuated with bees and honey after reading a chapter in the book “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” that claimed that people who eat a primarily honey diet have been known to live to well over 100 years old. I was sold! Since then, my love relationship with bees and honey has mostly existed in books, movies, and online articles.
However, how could I be sure I was ready to be a bee guardian without ever having any hands on experience with bees? What if I freaked out at the moment that mattered most? What if I had gotten a hive, only to realize that I would be paralyzed with fear?
The true test finally came for me last Saturday during our second Beginning Beekeeping Class with Richard Spiegel and Jenny Bach at Volcano Island Honey Company. We suited up and practiced the proper way to open up the hive, inspect a frame, and light our smokers. Then it was out to the field we went, three people per hive to practice with the real stars of the show—the bees!
A classmate, Larry, was the first in my group to open up the hive. Wow! All of the bees were pouring up to the top. We puffed a little smoke their way, and they immediately began retreating to engorge themselves on honey. The bees were so quiet and peaceful with us, despite our alien space suits and invasion of their home.
Now, the moment I had been waiting for… I used my hive tool to pry a frame out of the hive. I held in my hands, an entirely different universe of awe and wonder. Hundreds of bees were crawling all over beautifully capped honey cells. I could see eggs and larva indicating that the Queen was alive and well. Bees were eating honey and talking to each other. There were a few drones that I spotted, and lots of female workers.
I could have stared at the frame in my hands for hours. I was amazed with how calm I was–not an ounce of anxiety, only pure fascination! After a while though, the bees let us know they had enough of our unexpected visit. Their buzzing became louder, and the whole hive seemed to be in a bit of a frenzy. It was obvious that it was time for us to let them bee.
Even though I plan on doing this a million more times, I will never forget this first experience for the rest of my life! Thank you Richard and Jenny!! You have made my dreams come true!
Posted by Callie McNew
This project was funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.