We've had beehives producing honey on our farm for over 20 years and in this time I've managed to pick up a lot of info from our beekeeper David. Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend an Introduction to Beekeeping workshop held at Dancing Bee Apiaries and led by the Ontario Beekeepers Association Tech Transfer Team.
It was a fascinating day. They covered most of the information necessary to start up your own hives and I gleaned lots of details to fill in my knowledge gaps.
Some of the session was hands on and I say hats off (better keep that hats on) to Tammy, Les and Melanie as they opened up hives for us to find the queen, see the brood, pollen and honey. Melanie showed us how to be stung and properly remove the stinger with venom pump from your skin.
It must have been premonition but I bought a better veil hat before the workshop started. Glad I did as the bees were not too happy to be disturbed on a rainy morning. Nothing more distracting than trying to listen and have bees crawling across the screen of your veil hat. A bee got inside and as I tried not to panic outwardly in getting it out I still managed to get stung. Can't complain when I hear Melanie tell us how she gets stung on a regular basis, I guess you get used to it.
Here are some interesting tidbits I learned.
- All beehives in Ontario are registered and beekeepers have an amazing backup team of researchers, tech support and regulations to keep our honey source safe and flowing.
- Honey bees are not considered aggressive, they are defensive and will not sting you unless you are threatening their home or them personally. If you are stung without any provocation it won't be from a honey bee.
- I see the honey bees clustered around the rabbits water dish and now know they collect water to cool their hive by placing droplets around the inside and fanning for ventilation. Heat is absorbed with the evaporation. They don't drink the water, they get all the moisture they need from the nectar they collect.
- Honey bees are a social insect with a structured hierarchy and specific roles for the workers, drones and queen. The whole colony overwinters (except for the drones) so they produce a lot of honey, some of which we can have. Other honey producers such as the bumblebee only produce small amounts of honey as only the queen overwinters.
- There are many threats to the bees - disease, mites, insect infestation, predators such as mice or bears, climate change. You have to be passionate about beekeeping to work against the odds to keep healthy, thriving and productive hives.
All in all it was a really interesting and informative day. I've always had respect for the efforts of the beekeepers and a fascination with the bees. Not sure if I have the courage yet to start my own.
Next time you have a spoonful of honey thank the bees and the beekeeper!
STRAWBERRIES ARE LOOKING GOOD.
What goes better with honey than some strawberries. There are tiny fruit on some of the varieties and lots of blossoms. I could be a good year if the weather behaves. It won't be long before they're ready for picking - approx 1 - 2 weeks for the market, no more than 3 weeks for pick your own. Check around the 10th of June for fresh picked berries.