Yum. Honey. I have been reading the book "Bee Keeping for Dummies," and to put it simply, the honey bee is simply amazing. Did you know the drone, male, tries to mate with the queen bee between 200 and 300 feet in the air then if he is one of the chosen ones to mate with her, falls to his death? Ha ha ha, I don't know why I find this particularly amusing...but I do. Something I did not know about bees was that the worker bees are female. Go figure. They are the ones that make the honey, nurse the baby bees and feed the queen. The queen is completely helpless besides reproducing. There is only one queen per colony (or box hive). The only thing she does is lay eggs. And she is replaced about every two years because she starts to lay less than 1500 eggs in a three hour time frame. Talk about a tough crowd to please.
In a season, a colony (one hive) produces between 60-90 lbs of honey. That's so ridiculously amazing. To give you an idea of how much that is, one gallon weighs 11lbs. A worker bee has to visit five million flowers to produce a single pint of honey and they will travel up to three miles from the hive to find the resources they need. When the season comes to an end in the fall, the queen stops producing eggs and the worker bees kick the drones out because they eat too much and evidently die. If you are ever stung by a honeybee, which is unlikely because they are very docile, you have never been stung by a male or drone because he doesn't have a stinger. Speaking of stinging, my husband is allergic but was de-sensitized as a child. I guess we'll find out if it worked or not :/
I have purchased two colonies/hives. They were put together with the bees inside. If you want more about the pricing visit modernroots.org and click the finance tab. The price of bees isn't necessarily cheap - but that local honey is worth so much more. If you purchase honey within 300 miles you are less likely to have allergies to the pollen around you.
Honey bees produce more than just honey. You can also put their beeswax, propolis and royal jelly to good use. Beeswax alone is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes. It has even been allowed for those in European countries to pay their taxes with it. Royal jelly is fed to the queen, it is honey mixed with a chemical found in the nurse bees head. In health food stores it demands top pricing and it is traditionally used as a fertility treatment. Propolis, or bee glue is super sticky. The bees gather this from trees and plants. They use this to fill gaps in the hive and strengthen the honey comb. Propolis has antimicrobial qualities that can guard against fungus and bacteria. The Chinese have used propolis in their medicine for thousands of years.
Honey bees are a critical part of my self-reliant goals. They pollinate the gardens which result in bigger more bountiful fruits and vegetables as well as pollinate the fruit trees I planted this fall. They are a small little bug that we rely on heavily for our food chain to make a complete circle but rarely take time to reflect how important they really are.
My bees have arrived. They arrived in a starter hive (one box deep) with the bees in them. Given it is May and in Minnesota, things are starting to bloom, I will need to add a second box this week in order to keep those little ladies producing for me. Bees require a lot of water. In order to cool their hive, reproduce, and make honey. I also gave them sugar water so they don’t start eating their supply of honey before they can really get to business with the pollen about to come. In mid-June, I will add a third box deep and possibly in August add a fourth. I should get 80-90lbs of honey per hive. Cannot wait to see how they do this year. Of course, my extra’s will be sold off at the Farmer’s Market for others to benefit from the local goodness.