Welcome to The Friday Bee Chronicles, a weekly installment of beekeeping adventures from a different perspective. This isn’t a how-to column; instead it’s more of a why-I-did column and a thoughtful look at beekeeping that’s about more than the bees. I hope you enjoy the story as it unfolds! Janice Sina
With snow on Wednesday and another storm in the forecast for the weekend, it seems spring is a long way off. My one remaining hive looks lonely and dejected out there with its pouf of snow on top and more blocking the entrance below. But just last Sunday, the bees were out on cleansing flights so I know they’re alive and well, just like The Bee Happy Company! When I look back over the past year of beekeeping, my first, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned about these incredible insects, how many helpful, wonderful beekeepers there are out there, and how delicious local honey is, especially if it’s as local as your own back yard. So, how did I decide to set out on this adventure?
I like the idea of self-reliance. It’s one of the reasons I decided to try my hand at beekeeping. Not that one can survive on honey alone, but raising bees and harvesting honey could theoretically decrease my dependence on Stop and Shop. I suppose it would make a true impact only if I was also raising chickens for my own eggs and meat, and gardening for my own vegetables, which I would can and freeze to get me through the winter, and learning how to hunt so I could freeze venison. Alas, chickens stink, my meager garden serves us only for a season and I could never shoot an animal. So, honeybees it is.
Wavering between excitement and inertia, it took a while for my vision to become a reality, and even then I was filled with doubt. Could I do it? What if I killed them all? All this equipment! Was it worth the expense? And what about selling the honey? I’ve never been good at sales; how do I go about getting it out there on the market? There was a big black hole of questions, sucking in all my confidence. I only know one beekeeper, my long-time friend Kathy who lives in Ohio. By the way, she also raises chickens, puts up vegetables for the winter and has venison in her freezer. Can you tell I admire Kathy? She took me into her hives on one of my visits. We wore the whole bee-suit, including veil and gloves. That is, I wore gloves, she was bare-handed. Bare-handed! She expertly lit and used the smoker to calm the bees and talked about their society all the while calmly lifting and inspecting frames filled with thousands of bees. Bare-handed! I read the definitive beekeeper’s handbook while I was there and purchased one of my own when I got home . . . and nursed the idea for a couple years. . .