Beekeeping Lessons Learned

I’ve learned a lot the past few months working bees. On April 28th, a buddy sent me a text asking me if I knew of anyone who worked bees. I told him I did but I’d actually like to have them. He said, “Dude, you don’t work bees”. I simply replied, “I do now”!

So off I went to his house with another buddy’s brood box to capture this swarm of bees in my buddy’s tree. I took my 9-year old so we could learn this and experience this together. Experience we did. Since then, he’s been my little bee buddy throughout this adventure.

All was well the first couple months. I hadn’t gotten stung at all, the bees were pretty cool to watch and learn from and we seemed to have a good harmonious relationship. During that time I took a “Beekeeper 101” course from Penn State University for free and actually received a fancy certificate. The class took me about a month to get thru. I learned quite a bit and the information I absorbed actually made me want to dive deeper into the apiary world and the life of my bees. In June I left town for almost 2 weeks for some work stuff. When I returned, I went up to my hive cause I was so excited to see how things may have changed inside! With only a veil and shorts on, I dug right in. It didn’t take much time for the bees to put me in my place. There’s a metaphorical lesson to be learned from that experience. Much like soldiers returning home from war, it’s best to just watch and observe for a spell before you decide to jump right back into the daily cycle of the family. While gone, they had developed their own schedule and own cycle of daily life while learning to adapt with their soldier being away. Well, after getting stung twice, I realized that metaphor and decided to retreat. For the next few days I’d simply go up and talk to the bees without trying to enter their home. I wouldn’t do that again.

Here I am typing this and struggling a bit because my thumb is swollen like a grape. Another lesson I learned years ago was to “Check Equipment” before conducting a mission. I didn’t do that this morning and paid the price. I donned my beekeeper suit and was protected head to toe. I hadn’t noticed the small hole in my glove. It didn’t take long for the bees to notice this Achilles heel in my armor. After about 5 minutes of working the bees, they exploited this weakness and one bee really laid it to me. WOW!!!! I never realized how much a sting on the thumb actually hurt. Here I am about an hour later and that sucker is still throbbing. Old lesson, re-learned.

At this point, I’ve decided that my hive is large enough to begin using a smoker. I hadn’t used one or even purchased one up to now. My hive has doubled in size and once those alarm pheromones fire up, those bees are on it!! Not to mention that they’re all jacked up on sugar from the watermelon I had given them.

Takeaways from today? 1.) Check equipment, good, prior to entering the hive. 2.) Use a smoker to calm them down a bit. 3.) Best to enter the hive on a warm and sunny day while most are away from the hive rather than a cooler cloudy day when they’re all close to home. Hope ya’ll enjoyed reading about this adventure and possibly learned something from my experience.

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