An Insider's Look at Beekeeping
Honey is at the top of my "favorite food list," right next to avocados and lemons. There isn't anything else that compares to the sticky, amber, sweetness straight from nature itself. Sure, there's agave, but it's not the same. Honey is honey and like Winnie the Pooh I really love some good honey. I have long been fascinated by the life of bees and how they make this nectar from heaven, so when I had the opportunity to tour my husband's aunt's and uncle's hobby operation I grabbed a couple kids to go with me and jumped at the chance.
It wasn't hard to miss the brightly colored hives as we drove through alfalfa fields in the middle of western Kansas--Quinter to be exact-where the skyline is endless and the prairie sways in the breeze (Did I say breeze? I mean wind). The painted boxes definitely make it more fun, but they are not a requirement for beekeeping. One special queen bee hails from Redding, CA (our new home) so we decided to check out her hive first. She gets the pretty hive on the far left, in case you're wondering.
As any responsible bee keeper would do, we suited up. Don't we look good?!
The big question of the day, "Would we be able to find the Queen among all these bees?"We would have to look carefully frame by frame and hope that she didn't move her way to a frame after we already looked at it. Fingers crossed. As we began our search, I learned that honey is only harvested from the boxes above the brood chamber (which are the bottom two boxes) so that the bees can feed the colony and live off the honey in the bottom. In order to find the queen, we'd have to start from the top and work our way down.
There was a LOT of bees. Good thing we were suited up. Here (in the picture below) they made some honeycomb on the top of the frames. We let them eat all the honey up and then scrapped the beeswax off so the lid would fit nicely without squishing any bees. Watch out! It's pretty common to squish a few bees when you go to put the boxes back together. This makes the bees a little angry and they release an odor to warn the rest of the hive. Any guess what the odor smells like? Bananas!
The first few frames were pretty light as the bees were just starting to draw comb.
The drone bees don't sting. They are usually a little bigger than the female worker bees and they have a pretty cushy life as their only role is to mate with the queen. Sounds nice, huh? Here a drone bee is being held to show they don't sting.
A frame that has been worked over by the bees is very heavy. Here each cell is being filled with an egg by the queen and worker bees are working hard to cap the hole and take care of the developing larve. In 21 days a new bee will eat its way through and emerge. We got to see several bees emerge; it was really cool.
If you look closely you can see a new bee emerging head first. It's like a game of "Where's Waldo?" But see if you can find her and let me know in the comments or on my FB page if you can. Hint: find the center of the picture and look a little to the left. You'll see her arching her head back and pressing her chest forward to break loose. "Come on girl!" We cheered.
We found the queen on the very last frame! Can you spot her? She stands out because her body is a longer oval shape, and she isn't striped like the other bees. She was moving along looking for an empty cell to lay a new egg. When she finds a cell, she puts her back end into it for a minute or two and lays an egg. Then she'll move on to a new cell.
While she lays her egg the other bees nearby gather around her in a circle and "watch" or cheer her on. I don't know if they are really cheering her on, but it looks like it. In the middle of the picture you'll see a bee with a large black circle on it's back, that's the queen laying her egg. Notice the circle of bees around her watching?
This little girl landed on m sons hood, so I thought she deserved a photo.
After we saw the queen and got educated on the whole process we tried some honey straight from the hive. My son thought it was the best-tasting thing ever! I think he's right. One hive can make about 3 gallons of honey. Which would last me and my honey obsession about 8 weeks.
After getting up close and personal with the bees, I am convinced more than ever that ALL of creation testifies of God's wonderful works. Only God could dream up such amazing creations that are so important and so tasty! If you ever get the chance to tour a hive I strongly suggest you go. Even my daughter, who was rather hesitant at first said it, "It was amazing and I am so glad I went!"