Monday, May 9, 2011

We are family ...

Within a colony of honey bees, there are 3 castes, or parts of their family: the queen, the worker, & the drone.  Each has a distinct function to perform within the colony.  No fraternizing here!  A healthy, happy colony consists of 1 queen, 100 or so male drones, & about 50,000 female worker bees.  That's alot of buzzing around, it could wear a girl out!

A worker bee's mission in life is the survival of the colony.  All matters relating to the well being of the colony, except egg-laying, are handled by the worker bees.  Consider them the lady ninjas warriors of the bee world ... don't make them mad.!

The drone bees are the mates of the colony ... the queens boyfriends.  They are larger than the worker bees, square in shape, with big eyes ... all the better to find & mate with the queen. While living within the hive, they don't contribute to any work other than laying around, eating honey and  making a mess in the hive (not much different than in the human world ... sorry men, but it is so true.).  For this lap of luxury though, they pay with their lives.  The mating  process actually kills them.  That's why there's so many drones.

Now the queen.  We give the queen bee a royal title, but in reality, she has no real powers over the colony.  She doesn't rule or command them, but without her, the colony will surely die.  Her job is to lay over 2,000 eggs a day!  Wow, she's a busy lady!  She's smart enough to have a group of attentive maids who feed, clean, & clear up after her so her egg laying is never disrupted.  Baby worker bee eggs develop in about 21 days, & drones develop in about 24 days.  Baby queens develop more quickly, emerging from  their cocoons after 16 days.

And that is our happy, busy bee family.

the Beeginning of Beekeeping..

Beekeeping began as early as 30B.C. In Greece & Egypt, early bee hives were made of pottery & shaped like giant thimbles. The Romans used hives made from things like logs, brick, & even dung (ewww, don't think my neighbors would appreciate me doing that kind). In Europe, they used wicker skeps. It wasn't until the invention of "movable frame" hives around the mid 1800's that modern beekeeping began.

There are 4 main species of honey bee (Apis). All of them live in large colonies & store yummy honey for Winter supplies. The species who's honey humans have harvested for centuries is the Western, or European, honey bee (Apis mellifera). Now you know to thank the Western bee for that yummy sweet goodness we put in our teas, recipes, soaps, & lotions. Something tells me they don't wear cowboy boots in that hive though ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Beeginning with Bees..

Well, it started with a bee bite when I was little and I've been fascinated ever since. Love works in mysterious ways. Besides, beekeeping comes with a really cool outfit! I know when people think of beekeepers, they might visualize a middle aged man with a beard & overalls, living on a farm, with some cute cows in a barn, but beekeeping in fast becoming a more popular hobby for people like me~ a younger generation living in urban cities. Did I mention I'm making it a "girl" thing as well!?

Everyone's asking me "why bees?" Well, there are so many reasons! Bees are fascinating, hard working creatures. They live together in a complex community, & are very important to the cycle of life, pollinating the crops we eat. All of these are attributes to be greatly admired. At a time when our generation suffers from a term coined "nature-deficit disorder," bees bring us closer to the beautiful world of flowers & trees whose nectar is the source of their honey. I think raising honey bees is my personal calling to help my environment.

AND ohhhhh, the HoNeY!!! Honey contains vitamins B1,B2,C,B6,B5, & B3. A bit of local honey everyday, will rid you of your seasonal allergies better than any pill. It's a genius thing these honey bees do for us by pollinating our local plants! Honey is an awesome moisturizer for your skin & hair (you can use as a mask). It helps cure a sore throat, heals wounds & ulcers, kills viruses, bacteria, & fungi, helps your upset tummy feel better. It can keep you from getting dehydrated & who doesn't LOVE honey! It's nature's oldest & bestest sweetener in foods & drinks.

So many beekeepers' goal is to just produce as much honey as possible and measure their success based on the quantity harvested at the end of a season. But my goal, my hope, is to introduce as many of my friends as possible to what modern beekeeping can be and the joy & fruits of my honey bees labor. Please experience with me the amazing enjoyment we're going to embark on, having one of nature's most wondrous creatures residing in my very own garden. I hope this blog will get you thinking outside your bee box and get you excited about something new. Maybe it will even encourage & inspire you to bring bees into your life, wherever you are in life & on the world. It's un Beelievable!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just the facts, bees!

I'm thinking you probably don't know how IMPORTANT bees really are. I mean, we all know how cute they are~ all fuzzy & flighty, but they're seriously important. No less than 70% of the food we eat is dependent on being pollinated by bees. Food crops such as almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, & watermelons (to name a few in awesome alphabetical order) all rely on pollination by honey bees. 1/3 of our food supply relies on their very polite pollination services, essential for the reproduction of the plants. Happy bees, happy plants, happy people :)

So here's the sad bee state of affairs: bee populations around the globe are on the great decline. It's information like this that can put a girl in a great depression. With gross & neglectful things like intensive farming & urban sprawl & disease, the honey bee’s vital role is under great threat. There's a serious need for bees! 

Because of our ECOSYSTEM, we all should know that without bees, life just won't be as sweet! Bees are super huge deals in our ecosystem. (Did I mention they're responsible for most of our food crop reproduction?) Remove one element of the ecosystem, & the system has to make huge, not great, adjustments with all these connections & actions & interactions that take place within them. Without bees, Earth's ecosystem is just a BIG, HOT MESS! 

We need bees! If honey bees disappear, we can't find replacements that can do all the busy bee work they do. All that yummy delicious food we take for granted will always be there for the “picking” (literally) will decrease in supply & increase in price~ emptiness in our tummies & our pockets. Sad for you, me, & the bee. In an ecosystem, every single thing is important. A dwindling honey bee population directly affects being able to provide food for our families. 

Oh, yea ... & did I mention all that super delicious honey! bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz :)