Monday, January 23, 2012

Will You Bee My Beekeeper?

Last November, I received a flurry of emails and Facebook messages from friends.  A Groupon was being offered for a beekeeping class in my area.  A squeal and a deal later, I was signed up and ready to go.

A couple weeks before the class, I started reading beekeeping books and checking out websites.  I wandered around my back yard debating where I would situate a hive or two.  And wondering if I was quite ready to take the honey-coated plunge.

The big day came.  A good friend and I trundled one city over for our class.  It was full.  Overly full!  People had driven hours to come so I guess we were pretty lucky to have driven 7 minutes.

I learned a lot.

Did you know that honeybees are not native to the United States?  They literally came over with the pilgrims and subsequent immigrants.

That said, "of the 100 crop species that supply 90 percent of the world's food, bees pollinate more than 70 percent."

Our teacher, a man in his fifties, got his first beehive at age 9.  Back then, he said, it was much easier to keep bees.  You basically did nothing but harvest the honey.  Now, he said that he and other beekeepers in our county (he is the President of the local beekeepers guild) regularly lost 50% of their hives every year - due to disease and pests.

Much of that problem is that hives are brought over from many other countries to pollinate American crops during peak season.  For instance, I live in California and apparently March or thereabouts is the time to pollinate the almond trees in our Central Valley.  Many of the diseases and pests have come with those bees brought in from other countries.  As careful as the government often is to prevent invasive species, it boggles the mind that it will ship in beehives and, with them, new diseases and predators, from willy nilly.

During our examination of the hive for instance, he showed us a hive beetle and indicated that he would put out a trap for them.  "These just came over in the last two or three years with the bees brought in from Australia".  Great!

I learned some happier things.  Like beehives can be cute!

Though it doesn't have to be this cute! (It's a vintage beehive on Etsy.)

After the class, my friend and I returned home - heady with honey tasting dreams of bees in our suburban backyards.  I will likely wait until next spring (because you can really only start keeping bees in the spring), to jump, fully suited, into beekeeping.  That gives me a year to read, take my local guild's beginners beekeeping class and learn everything I can about bees.  Besides, this spring's dance card is already full with endeavors like planting in a greenhouse, expanding my garden, creating a water garden, and condoing my potatoes.

So I guess you'll have to wait until next spring to see a picture this cute again. ;-)

* I'm linking to Homestead Barn Hop and FarmGirl Friday for this post.

* Keep up with the other bees in the hive and join the Facebook page. It's full of combs and honey.


Deborah Jean at Dandelion House said...

Hi, I popped over from the Barn Hop!
Love your Tales from the Roost series.. I do something similar...
Chickens are so fun! I'm your newest follower! Come on by to meet " the cottage Hens sometime and join my farmgirl Friday blog hop!

knutty knitter said...

Oh my - its been an age since I was online. I meant to say that we mostly grew tomatoes and cucumbers. There was also a grape but that had its root outside the house and was trained up the back wall. You can see we had a cool climate with little rain and short, briefly hot summers (daytime only - it got very cold at night being high and a desert). We now live in a more temperate area but the same principle apply.

ps. good luck with those bees :)

viv in nz

Truffula said...

No Groupon for that here, but I'm signed up to start a beekeeping course next month! Those cute beehives are nice! I have lots of learning to do!

Green Bean said...

@Deborah Jean - I love it. Chickens are such a hoot. :) I'm looking forward to joining your blog hop. Thanks for the invitation.

@Viv - Thanks for the greenhouse suggestions. I've got it all set up with big pots per your last recommendation. I've got some cucumber seeds so I think I'll go with that as a starter.

@Truffula - Are you planning to get bees this year or are you thinking one more year? I cannot believe how much is involved and how intricate the honeybee society is. So very interesting.

Truffula said...

@Grean Bean - if I can swing it, I'd love to start this year. I'm less than excited about the prospects of antibiotics, pesticides, etc. So, already, my reading/researching is going a bit off the beaten path. Are you surprised? LOL! I'm sensiing some Green Phone Booth updates around this area...

Clint Baker said...

This is my first visit, I really enjoyed the article on Beekeeping. My father passed way a few years back and he loved beekeeping. We all had a blast with the. I have been thinking about getting another hive or two and I think this just pushed me to do it this spring. Keep up the good work and I will be back!

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said... so glad you enjoyed your first class :) My first hive is sitting in flat pack out in the garage right now and I'm itching to get it all set up.

I did find out the same factoid last year about honeybees in the Americas last year. When you think of the native American crops you'd think that at least squash and beans would need to be pollinated by bees right? You should ask which insects traditionally pollinated them since they're definitely not wind pollinated (like corn).

Green Bean said...

@Truffula - I love it! I eagerly await your posts. :)

@Clint - I'm so happy to hear that this post was an inspiration for you to take up for your father's passion. I have to admit that your enthusiasm is infectious. I read your comment and thought, well, maybe I can pull it off this year instead of next!

@Tanya - So fascinating, isn't it? The master beekeeper talked about native bees (mason bee, bumble bee, etc) that would pollinate. Those bees are also on the decline and don't, like the honeybee, produce honey.

Jen ( said...

I'd love to have bees but they are illegal to have in my town. I have asked the local farmers if they would want me to keep bees on their property, but they already have beekeepers! Sigh!

Annie said...

My husband would love to keep some bees. For some reason, we have never done it, we just talk about it!

Love that antique beehive - it's beautiful.

Annie said...

My husband would love to keep some bees. For some reason, we have never done it, we just talk about it!

Love that antique beehive - it's beautiful.

Clint Baker said...

You will get to it soon Green Bean! I grew up on a farm and when I got married almost 20 years ago I haven't gotten to farm. So as you can see my blog I just started, I started Urban Farming! LOL

my blog:

Leigh said...

What a great post. Bees are on our list too, but you'll be ahead of us so I can learn from you!

Green Bean said...

@Jenn- Illegal?! What a complete bummer. Maybe you can get the law changed? A 4th grader in my town made it her ROPES project to get the urban chicken law overturned and now we can legally keep chickens.

@Annie - Isn't that antique one the coolest ever!

@Clint - Thank you for the link! Looking forward to following your urban farming adventures.

@Leigh - I hope we'll get to it soon! Loved your post on growing chicken feed.

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youbee said...

That's good that here was also a grape but that had its root outside the house and was trained up the back wall.I have been thinking about getting another hive or two and I think this just pushed me to do it this spring.


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