Busy Bees

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So, in my career search I ran across bee keeping one day on the internet. Undaunted by my suburban dwelling lifestyle I checked out three books on this subject and found a bee club (yes, there is such a thing) here in Charleston. I read three books on this subject and attended one bee meeting only to discover that I had come to this epiphany of a future hobby for myself (and my husband of course) too late in the year.

However, I am not deterred and will endeavor to persuade my partner that this is a fabulous pastime to embark upon early next year even if we do not have a privacy fence and the codes where we live to not specifically permit it. I want to add here though that they do not specifically prohibit it either! So, in case the bee pursuit has bitten (stung, whatever) you I would recommend checking out these three books at your local library.

Ashley English’s book called Keeping Bees, part of her homemade living series was the first one I read – there is something about the design and pictures in this book that draw you in. English summarizes all you need to know to get started with bee keeping. I now know there is typically one queen in a hive and then there are workers and drones. The drones are males and apparently are not extremely helpful in the hive. I could make some joke here about males and their abilities at housekeeping but I am sure you could come up with a better one than me. English also details the components of a hive, the equipment needed, and tips for how often to check on your hive.

The next one I read was Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees. Armed with a cursory knowledge of beekeeping thanks to English this book helped to greatly expand upon my knowledge. Apparelty, the Egyptians kept bees and there is even a cave painting in Spain showing a person harvesting honey that dates back to 8000 years ago (see cleverly inserted thumbnail picture to the left – it took me FORever to figure out how to do this correctly). Anyway, people used to keep bees in what are called skeps (just think of that cute little traditional hive symbol you usually see when bees are involved). Though they are cool to look at they are not an acceptable hive anymore. Instead, Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth created and patented, in 1860, what we still continue to use today as the modern hive. Think box shaped structure that may vary in height according to how many “supers,” or boxes as I like to call them, are stacked on one another.

This book was also very informative on the types of illnesses and diseases that plague honey bees today. Although, its placement at the end of the book was a bit of a downer. I read this book aloud to my husband, David, while were driving to work in the mornings (this was for one of my temporary employment gigs since my relocation to Charleston) and about halfway through this last chapter on parasites that prey on our winged friends, he asked me to stop reading because it was making him not want to keep bees anymore. I promptly ceased my oration.

Finally, The Honey Bee Hobbyist by Norman Gary, was full of large pictures and also contained a lot of close-ups of the bee body and bees at work collecting pollen and nectar. If you are like me and a visual person, then this would be a good book for you. Though I did not read this book cover to cover like the other two, the pictures gave me a good mental picture of what the prior two books explained.

Overall, the most important thing I learned is that keeping bees is a project best planned for in advance. If you want to do this, find a place near you to buy your “package” of bees and place your order early! Packages can get picked up starting in about late March depending on where you live. Also, join a bee keeping club. They are very nice people and more than willing to help! If you are in the Charleston area reading this, check out the Charleston Area Bee Keeper’s Association. http://sites.google.com/site/charlestonareabeekeepers/home

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