Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ordering Bees

While at Bee School in early February, they told us that the time to order bees was NOW. Greg, a professional beekeeper who attends my church (and will thus probably be a regular player in this blog) suggested we call Tommy, since Tommy had bees to sell.

Just prior to the Superbowl, I called Tommy. Tommy not only had bees to sell, but whole hive set-ups, which I considered a golden opportunity. I've ordered two hives of Italian bees (SMR VSH....mite resistant variety) along with some shallow supers for later honey storage.

Hmmm...perhaps I should explain things like "shallow supers." We'll save that for another blog.

For now...somewhere down East in North Carolina, there are a few thousand bees getting ready to come live at my house. They will come to Asheville in April.

The friend reading over my shoulder just asked, "A few thousand?"

I explained, yes, a few thousand bees. When purchasing bees, you tend to get about three pounds of bees per hive. By mid to late summer, when the hive is at its full working population, there can be 50,000 to 60,000 bees per hive. With two hives, I should have 100,000 to 120,000 bees in my back yard.

If you've ever dreamed of being CEO of a large company, beekeeping is the hobby for you.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Swammerdam Bee Ovaries

Why Swammerdam?

With so many fine beekeepers and scientists, why name the blog after Jan? He was one of the first scientists to study bees under a microscope, and I so love microscopes. My best hours in high school were spent peeking down the lens of a much more advanced model of scope than Swammerdam ever saw.

He was the man who discovered that the king bee had ovaries...and was, indeed, the QUEEN bee. He drew nice pictures of the ovaries.

He was a religious nut. It used to be that all the finest scientists were religious nuts. I look forward to the day when science, religion and art all come back together. We've lost our bearings, with current religious nuts trying to explain away science, and scientists trying to explain away religion, and no one appreciating the role of poetry and awe.

There will one day be a new enlightenment, when people discover that one can find truth in research, in myth, in beauty, without having to distort one truth with another, but holding each value as its own part of the wholeness of humanity.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bee School

For two weekends in February, I attended classes all day on Saturday and all afternoon on Sunday at the Folk Art Center off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, along with 299 other eager beekeeping students. It was the largest beekeeping class they've ever had. Apparently interest among hobby beekeepers is growing exponentially in this area. We learned about the bees themselves, their history, anatomy and variation. We learned about the hives and their parts. We learned about setting them up, keeping them low on pests and problems, and harvesting honey. I filled a notebook with notes, and my head with bee facts. After some minor wavering and cold feet, I decided that there was a future for some bees in my backyard.

It Begins With a Book

For people who know me well, it will not surprise them that I started by reading books. Books on gardening, which led to Holley Bishop's "Robbing the Bees," and then on to text books and guide books and encyclopedias of bees. I now have an impressive stack of bee books. Books and bees. Lovely, lovely things.