The Art of Beeing

I went to a beekeeping class at the Oakhurst Community Garden, and now I would love love love to start an apiary. My neighborhood may not allow chickens, but I bet there’s no rule against bees.
Here are the hives at the garden after the weeds were cut back. They let the weeds grow tall to protect the hives from heat. The bees were quite confused at the new openness and were everywhere. A bit intimidating.
Active hives at the Oakhurst Community Garden
Here’s our teacher showing us an empty hive and how to shift the boxes and panels inside to maximize brood and honey.
Learning the anatomy of a bee hive
Here are some interesting things I learned.
* To get out a bee stinger, use your fingernail or something else and scrape across the skin. If you try to pinch it to get it out, you might just squeeze in more venom. If you’re working with bees, put smoke on the sting, to mask the alarm pheromone.
* Tulip poplars are the main source of nectar flow for bees around here. They’re also fond of white clover, privet, golden raintrees, and around Christmas, when there’s not much else blooming, they love mahonia.
* It must be at least fifty-five degrees for bees to fly, so it’s ideal to place a hive where it can get morning sun.
* Swarms of bees aren’t likely to sting. They don’t have a nest or brood to protect. You can shake them right off a tree branch into a tub then pour them–yes pour–into a hive.
* In July and August around here, bees get mighty ornery.
* Lemongrass mimics the attraction pheremone for bees–rub it on a new empty hive to attract bees.
* Before manufactured hives became available, around these parts folks used hollowed sweet gum trunks to house hives. For years in Europe folks used skeps, hives made of wound straw, because large trees were scarce due to deforestation.
* If you work with bees, you will get stung.
And most important:
* Chickens coexist well with bees. If chickens are allowed to free range under the hive, they help control hive beetles, one of bees’ worst pests around here. Chickens may eat a few bees too, but eventually they learn.
Keeping bees really is an art. You have to learn how to read the bees and their needs. The best way is to start. Fortunately, Oakhurst has hives I can practice with. I’m going to volunteer so I can learn a bit more. I also want to do some reading on the subject. There were a lot of good modern books recommended, such as Sue Hubble’s A Book of Bees, but until I can get to the awesome Decatur library, I think I’ll find my copy of Virgil’s Georgics.
Okay, now off to nurse my cold with ice cream and the new episode of Dollhouse.

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