Reflections on Beekeeping

You read about the decline of the honey bee. You see the posts on Facebook and Twitter of the foods we will lose without pollinators. You learn that bees are ending up on endangered species lists. You stop using certain fertilizers in your garden to help protect them and still they are dying. If you look around your property and see a lot of open space, maybe you do something else.

We started two hives this year, back an acre or so away from the house. We bought two starter packs of Italian honey bees. My counterpart spent a month building out Kenyan top-bar hives, long narrow hives with removeable bars across the top that encourage the bees to build their onw natural infrastructure. We're not in this for the honey. We're not in it to become an apiary. We are in it for the bees.

And they are really very gentle little creatures, at least this time of year. We hived them up, gave them some syrup, parked a couple of lilac bushes nearby, and have been letting them set up shop. There has been only one sting. Mostly they seem curious about us, as we are about them.

Today we helped with the final release of their queens, a very exciting day. The hives should be used to their queens at this point, but there is still a chance they could reject her, kill her, swarm and find another home - any number of things. When we inspected our hives, though, they all seem to be busily building out comb, storing our simple syrup, getting things ready for brooding. Getting things ready for the queen.

Sitting in the sun, smelling the lilac and hearing the gentle drone of the bees is incredbily relaxing. I hope our hives survive this settling in period. I'm not sure I understand why the bees are dying off, but I feel great satisfaction in taking care of some of them. I feel it is a worthy endeavor, a responsibility for me as one of the fortunate ones with plenty to do something. So far, life with the bees has every appearance of being a singularly gratifying experience.

In closing, here is a gallery of the hiving from early Saturday morning just after sunrise.