We went through June with a beekeeper’s duties. It was mostly stuff I’d read- being the research wonk I am- but in a perspective relevant to our climate- and that’s really important.
I did sort-of finish my honeycomb pin, and wore it, but no one commented on it. *sulk*
The beekeeper has various packages available for necessary beekeeping supplies- and pretty good prices, I think- but to get them we’d have to take a day next weekend to drive out to his apiary and pick the stuff up. And weekend days are precious to us. I think I will see how good the discount is- because the same stuff delivered to our doorstep has distinct advantages over needing to drive 3 hours and pick it up. :P Though that would be kinda fun… Anyway, I do need to see what the price differential is.
Sasha (our dog) is good at the guilt trips, by the way. When we were getting ready to go she was all waggy and hopeful, and I said, “I’m sorry, girl, I’d love to take you but we really can’t.” And she drooped sadly, and went to her bed, and looked woebegone.
But she was so, SO happy to greet us upon our return! Oh, the joy!
…which kinda adds to the guilt. :)
OK, my basic theory- based right now on lots of reading and no personal experience- is as follows:
1-10 hives = hobby level.
20- 100 hives = semi-pro.
300+ hives = pro.
Now, this obviously leaves a lot of gaps in the analysis. However, I think keeping this in mind might help us to keep our realities in sync with our theories. Meaning, if we don’t want to be pro, we need to be sure we don’t accidentally get into that kind of order of magnitude.
One of the things that’s attracted me to beekeeping, at least in theory (so far) is the essential alien-ness of bees. A bee is not an entity in the same way as a mammal is; it’s most sensible to look at the hive itself as the entity, and that’s very foreign to a mammalian POV.
I find that both fascinating and off-putting. The alien-ness of bugs is one of the things that drives my bug-phobia… but it’s also fascinating. Dan, the apiary guy, is convinced that “his” bees recognize him, and I think that’s possible. It’s also possible that we are pretty much invisible to the hive as entities ourselves (unless they mistake us for bears!), and thus we’re more the climate and the flowering of plants rather than someone with whom to relate. That’s icky, for me, with regards to carpenter ants- but intriguing when it comes to bees.
Bees do have some advantages over ants, though. Bees are furry (though the fur is apparently structurally more like feathers), and have big eyes- and we have evolved to find fur and big eyes quite appealing. Just think how cute kittens are! And it doesn’t hurt that there are good reasons to make common cause with bees, especially honeybees- while there’s really not much reason to try to develop a relationship with carpenter ants!
I am fascinated by the combination of xenophilia and xenophobia I’m feeling as I begin wading into beekeeping. I will say that i saw tons of slides of bees last night, without getting creepy crawly feelings- so I consider that a Good Sign! It’ll be a challenge, I know- especially since I still do get creeped out by many bugs! but I’m eager to proceed, both for my own development, and because I think it’s an important thing to do.
We did it! We are now committed to housing and caring for 12 pounds of bees, including 3 queens- meaning, 3 hives.
This whole thing is not cheap to start up. The class is around $200, the bees similarly, and the hives etc. will probably be another $300. Eep. Still, getting new stuff does mean that we won’t be introducing any diseases or anything, so we think it’s worth it. Not that we have a raft of people offering us old stuff, but still. :)
However, everything but the bees is usable for the indefinite future, so that’s not too bad- it’s an investment. And assuming nothing dreadful happens, the bees will last for a while too- well, not THESE bees, but the hives they will start.
The Warm Colors Apiary guy has not had any of the mysterious dying-off that the articles have been about. He thinks these things are the result of toxins- basically, the guys with 4k hives who drive them all over the country are stressing the bees a lot- bees do not tend to want to see the world- and compensate with a lot of chemical assistance. This does make sense to me.
Next class is in a couple of weeks. That one will focus more on what beekeepers do- this one was all about the bees. Which are really cool little entities!