1/29/2012

The Buzz About Bees

It's pure liquid gold--sticky,sweet, and  tastes really good on the muffin I'm eating. Of course I'm talking about honey. As a longtime honey lover, buckwheat honey has always been a favorite, but now that distance precludes that treat, mesquite blossom has become the flavor of choice. The vendors at the weekly farmers' market have the best choice here with a variety of flavors. The Killer Bee Guy from Bisbee has a good selection of honey mustards too, that range from chipotle to roasted garlic.  Bees in Arizona are all pretty much Africanized which means they're killer bees. However, the bees in our yard are desert honey bees and not killers. At least we don't think so. You should however respect these industrious insects and not irritate them. The results could be painful and sometimes downright dangerous.

Bees are highly organized and the division of labor within a hive is clear. The queen is in charge. The drones keep the queen happy so she can keep the nursery full. That means laying 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day to keep the hive well supplied with troops. The worker bees do all the work, as in gathering nectar and pollen. Then they make the honey. Simple. There's no corporate ladder climbing or any layoffs. There is job security within the bee community and no one has any sort of identity crisis.

Without bees, vegetables and flowers would soon decline. Pollination is essential in growing anything. Although there are other insects who pollinate such as wasps and butterflies, bees are by far the major pollinators. Unfortunately, bees have had a tough time over the past several years. Mites and an aggressive virus have decimated the bee population. So, be kind to bees you may encounter.

Now for a bee story. This goes back to my childhood in East Koy, NY. East Koy is  merely an intersection with farms dotting each corner and the population is "uncertain." It's on a sign there, so it must be true. One year, when Dad was in an entrepreneurial phase, he decided to become a beekeeper. My siblings and I were fascinated with the equipment involved to handle the bees. The headgear was the best, which was the beekeeper's veil. It consisted of a hat with bee-impervious netting sewn to it. The netting draped gracefully below the neck. You were a bonafide apiary professional with that on your head. The smoker (smoke makes bees drowsy) was a small metal can with a spout and small bellows to puff the smoke where it's needed. An extractor, which was a round tub with a crank pulled the honey from the honeycombs, so it could be bottled. Wooden frames went into the white box hives so the bees could build honeycomb and fill it with honey. I'm sure there were other supplies and equipment, but as a kid the memories contain only what's interesting at the time.

We enjoyed watching (from a safe distance) Dad pull the frames from the hives and check on whatever you check when you open the hive. He was always careful to tie down his shirt sleeves and pant legs so the little buzzers couldn't find an entrance to bare skin. One fateful day clever, angry honey bees (probably 2 or 3) decided not to be drowsy when the smoke filtered into the hive. With quite a bit of aeronautic ingenuity they found a way up his pant leg. When Dad realized the terrible danger, he dropped the smoker like a hot potato. Yelling something unintelligible, he began running to the milk house which was a good distance away while trying to drop his pants. 

My three siblings and I stood in shocked silence as he made a frantic, disrobing dash across the lawn. My mother attempted to look concerned while holding back her laughter. Dad appeared minutes later, fully clothed and sweat dripping from his face. Yes, there's a happy ending. Stinging of certain areas was avoided and all was well, but not so much for the bees. (Sorry, Dad. I just had to tell it.)











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Positively encouraging

1/29/2012

The Buzz About Bees

It's pure liquid gold--sticky,sweet, and  tastes really good on the muffin I'm eating. Of course I'm talking about honey. As a longtime honey lover, buckwheat honey has always been a favorite, but now that distance precludes that treat, mesquite blossom has become the flavor of choice. The vendors at the weekly farmers' market have the best choice here with a variety of flavors. The Killer Bee Guy from Bisbee has a good selection of honey mustards too, that range from chipotle to roasted garlic.  Bees in Arizona are all pretty much Africanized which means they're killer bees. However, the bees in our yard are desert honey bees and not killers. At least we don't think so. You should however respect these industrious insects and not irritate them. The results could be painful and sometimes downright dangerous.

Bees are highly organized and the division of labor within a hive is clear. The queen is in charge. The drones keep the queen happy so she can keep the nursery full. That means laying 1,000 to 2,000 eggs per day to keep the hive well supplied with troops. The worker bees do all the work, as in gathering nectar and pollen. Then they make the honey. Simple. There's no corporate ladder climbing or any layoffs. There is job security within the bee community and no one has any sort of identity crisis.

Without bees, vegetables and flowers would soon decline. Pollination is essential in growing anything. Although there are other insects who pollinate such as wasps and butterflies, bees are by far the major pollinators. Unfortunately, bees have had a tough time over the past several years. Mites and an aggressive virus have decimated the bee population. So, be kind to bees you may encounter.

Now for a bee story. This goes back to my childhood in East Koy, NY. East Koy is  merely an intersection with farms dotting each corner and the population is "uncertain." It's on a sign there, so it must be true. One year, when Dad was in an entrepreneurial phase, he decided to become a beekeeper. My siblings and I were fascinated with the equipment involved to handle the bees. The headgear was the best, which was the beekeeper's veil. It consisted of a hat with bee-impervious netting sewn to it. The netting draped gracefully below the neck. You were a bonafide apiary professional with that on your head. The smoker (smoke makes bees drowsy) was a small metal can with a spout and small bellows to puff the smoke where it's needed. An extractor, which was a round tub with a crank pulled the honey from the honeycombs, so it could be bottled. Wooden frames went into the white box hives so the bees could build honeycomb and fill it with honey. I'm sure there were other supplies and equipment, but as a kid the memories contain only what's interesting at the time.

We enjoyed watching (from a safe distance) Dad pull the frames from the hives and check on whatever you check when you open the hive. He was always careful to tie down his shirt sleeves and pant legs so the little buzzers couldn't find an entrance to bare skin. One fateful day clever, angry honey bees (probably 2 or 3) decided not to be drowsy when the smoke filtered into the hive. With quite a bit of aeronautic ingenuity they found a way up his pant leg. When Dad realized the terrible danger, he dropped the smoker like a hot potato. Yelling something unintelligible, he began running to the milk house which was a good distance away while trying to drop his pants. 

My three siblings and I stood in shocked silence as he made a frantic, disrobing dash across the lawn. My mother attempted to look concerned while holding back her laughter. Dad appeared minutes later, fully clothed and sweat dripping from his face. Yes, there's a happy ending. Stinging of certain areas was avoided and all was well, but not so much for the bees. (Sorry, Dad. I just had to tell it.)











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