Judging from the popularity of this spring’s Lifelong Learning beekeeping class, the people want to know about bees! After all, being a caretaker for a hive of 60,000+ insects is not an obvious process. Keeping bees is not like having an ant farm or a hamster.
First, there’s a sense of duty and responsibility that comes with keeping bees. Bees contribute their pollination skills to our world and their impact goes way beyond a local hive. Second, bees are way more interesting. Beekeeping vocabulary includes words like nuc, hive, brood, queen, and swarm. (If those words don’t conjure romantic notions of urban homesteading, then I would guess that beekeeping veils and helmets do not suit your fashion style.) Third, bees produce way cool honey, beeswax, and other natural products.
Our instructor Christopher, who I thought of as the bee whisperer, assured us that hives were easy to maintain. He taught us about the hierarchy of a hive and how bees self-organize to support their colonies. (Thank goodness we weren’t learning about bee herding.)
The impressive complexity and specificity of their hive organization is what helps make hives “easy” to maintain. However, that’s not to say that there’s no work or effort to keeping a healthy bee population. Christopher gave us insights about equipment, the logistics of starting a colony, and some basic bee biology. My key takeaway was that we have to create an environment that will allow the colony to flourish and then let the bees do their bee thing.
This is why I will have to be systematic about beekeeping.
Isn’t it just too tempting to lift the lid on the box and check out their hourly progress? But I don’t want to neglect the bees either — I find it hard to achieve a balance between giving too much attention to my plants, cooking, science experiments, etc. or completely ignoring them to the point that they suffer. Tens of thousands of disappointed bees (who might suddenly swarm or worse, not survive) is a big burden to bear, so I’m waiting until next spring to be more confident as a responsible and responsive caregiver. At that point, I will proudly wear the beekeeping veil and start my beekeeping adventure. Bring on the honey.
What about you? There are about 800 registered hives in Salt Lake County. Do you have bees or are you interested in beekeeping?
[Big thanks to my beekeeping friend Brook for allowing me to share his photos.]