Friday, October 15, 2010

Day #4 (only 596 to go)

I attended a meeting of the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club last Tuesday. Since there were so many of us there who had never kept bees, the leaders went through ALL the equipment needed for a beekeeping operation. This is, of course, assuming that one wants to harvest honey. The equipment is for the convenience of the keeper. It is not a necessity for the bees. After all, those critters have been around since before the dinosaurs. We know that because a honeybee, trapped in amber 14 million years ago, recently came to light.

So, they don't really need us, but we sure need them. Think of every fruit or veggie you've eaten in the past twelve months. Not the grains -- wheat and oats and such are pollinated by the wind. The fruit trees and gardens, though, whether huge commercial operations or small back-yard plots, need bees. NO BEES translates to no food for us. I sure don't want to live exclusively on oatmeal and rice and whole wheat bread.

(c) yelloideas photography

The equipment, though. My gosh! I could spend a fortune on this endeavor. Of course, there are ways to cut corners. Instead of spending $63 on a huge white bee suit with built-in elastic straps to seal my pant legs and wrists (so bees won't crawl in there to investigate), I went to Goodwill and spent $8 on some oversized white pants and long-sleeved shirts. I figure two layers of each with something like velcro straps around my wrists and with my socks pulled up over the pant legs will do me just fine. I am NOT going to post a picture of me wearing them, but I figure the bees won't care how silly I look.

Why are beekeeping suits always white? Bees get really curious about dark colors. So if you visit a hive, wear light-colored clothes.

I will invest in a bee veil -- don't want to get stung on my face or neck in case I do something dumb to upset the bees. You see, honeybees are very gentle. Unless they feel threatened, in which case it is their duty to protect the hive. They will literally give their lives to protect the hive and the queen. If a worker bee stings, she dies. So, a $35 bee veil is a good investment. Cheaper ones (that still work well) are half that price. I jsut saved $17!

And a smoker. This is a fat can with a tube-shaped exhaust at the top and a bellows attached on the side. You start some newspaper burning in it, stuff in a bunch of pine needles or other such fuel, close it up, pump on the bellows, and smoke will drift out of the tube. Smoking the bees will calm them. At the meeting we were advised to buy a smoker right away and practice, practice, practice, so that when the time came to calm a suspicious hive, we wouldn't have our smoker go out at the wrong time. $36 for a good basic smoker. Should last for years.

Four dollars will buy me an Italian hive tool and another four for a bee brush. One helps open a hive that's stuck shut with propolis, and the other is for gently brushing bees off a comb when I need to take it away from them.

$22 for a frame holder, a metal doohickey that I can hook over the side of the hive body so that, as I lift out frames to inspect them, I don't have to set them on the ground and risk squashing bees, stepping on the comb, or getting grass or dirt stuck to the foundation.

Gloves are a good idea, and there are styles that range up to $17, but one of the books I read suggested getting some yellow rubber gloves from the household department at the grocery store. They work just fine. Eventually, the goal is to get to where you're comfortable not wearing gloves at all. If you get stung -- refer back to the hive tool. It's good for scraping out the stinger.

I'm up to $143 so far (if I added correctly), and I still don't have the wooden hives or the bees. I'll worry about that later. After all, this is only Day #4.

Beeatitude for Day #4:
Blessed are they who wear light-colored clothes, for we shall not pay any attention to them.

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