Ask the beekeeper...

There’s a saying among beekeepers that if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question you will probably get 11 different answers. Yes, there are a lot of opinions out there and I have some as well. But the basics are the basics.

When people hear that I keep bees, they assuredly will have a lot of questions. They are normally the same questions that I’ve answered before, but I’m always happy to talk about bees, so it’s ok. For this post, I decided to give some answers:

this is a relatively young hive, a two-story nuc started about 1 month ago

this is a relatively young hive, a two-story nuc started about 1 month ago

Typical questions asked to beekeepers:

Why did you get into beekeeping?

I started reading about it, learning about it and yes, the thought of getting lots of sweet honey crossed my mind too. Once I began to understand the lifecycle, the bees’ organizational structure, and the biology of a colony, honey became the last thing on my mind.  I decided that I wanted to dive head first into this crazy, mysterious world that only the amazing creator could design. 

Do you get honey?

Yes, though some years certainly produce more than others. Everything depends on….well, a lot of variables:

-The weather: there must be a certain amount of cold or freezing days here in Georgia in order for different species of plants to bloom properly. So, if it’s too warm, the spring nectar won’t be as bountiful.  You also need winter and spring rain, but not too much. Too much rain washes the nectar from the flowers. If it keeps raining, the flowers don’t have time to fill back up, but before it gets washed off again.

-The size of your hive: You have to get your colony to the maximum number of foragers at just the right time without them swarming. If they swarm, you lose 50-65% of your colony. That does not make for a good harvest.  

Do you get stung and do you wear protections?

Yes. Though it’s not fun, it’s part of it. I wear a jacket, veil and gloves. Though they can sting through them, normally I just wear jeans. The stings get better over time, but it’s not too bad. 

Are you allergic?

I swell a little bit, but if I were truly allergic and still did this, you could call me stupid.

How much honey does one hive make?

Again, with the variables….. In 2015, I harvested nothing. I could have taken a bit for myself, but decided to just leave it to the bees for their winter stores. That was because I was expanding the hive numbers, thus sharing the wealth, plus the spring rains kept washing all the nectar off the flowers. However, it’s not unheard of for a mature hive to product 150+ lbs of honey in a year. I’m looking forward to those years.

Do you use a smoker and why?

When bees get “smoked”, it mimics a forest fire or some other type of attack. Their natural reaction is to fill their belly with honey and get ready to flee. I know if my belly was full of honey, I would be less aggressive. This is exactly what happens with bees. They settle down, enjoy the fruits of their labor and let me do my work. Basically, they are calmer. Yes I use smoke, but as little as possible. I only use it with larger hives, which tend to more feisty. If I’m working a small hive or a nuc, I try not to use it at all.

So, the next time you find out that someone is a beekeeper, don’t worry, ask as many questions as you’d like. I guarantee, they won’t mind a bit.

~ Bobby