December 6, 2010

My Honey Loves Him Some Honey


R fell in love with the bees. I'm not sure when it happened. His interests have roamed through mushroom growing, cider brewing, chainsaw wielding, egg laying, gourd drumming, and bulb planting. He's not flighty, as he's still interested in all of these activities and has them in the works as well, but he's suddenly become an apprentice bee keeper.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about the plan R and I had to keep bees in The Woods. (Have I really been blogging that long? Time is a free fall.) Here's that post if you're interested.

When we arrived in The Woods it became clear that we really didn't want to attract bears to our abode -- especially after reading Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in which Charley the Dog goes psycho over a bear. We'd like to keep our Bella Dog sane and alive-- so we put off the idear (that's New England speak).

Recently, though, R went out for a beer with a couple of local farmer friends (how rural that sounds!) and they each offered to let him tend bees on their properties. R came home breathless with excitement and plunged into research mode.

It's amazing what one can learn by watching a few Youtube videos. Of course R is no fool, and isn't willing to sacrifice a whole colony of bees while he's trekking up a steep learning curve, so he found a couple of local bee keepers who are giving him pointers, and one of them offered to let him apprentice.

If you want to hear more about the life of a bee, you'll have to talk to R, but here's what I learned: We can't really trust those honey labels in the stores because the whole certification process is suspect, and bees can buzz miles away from the hive; there's just no controlling their wanderlust. What apiarists can control, though, is whether or not they spray pesticide directly on the bees.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it-- especially because so many people consider the bee itself a pest (not me, though, I am most reverent). But pesticide happens. R explained it like this: The apiarist wants to collect as much honey as possible, so he (or she) might give the bees larger cells in which to create more honey, but the larger cells attract more bee mites which kill the bees, so the apiarist might spray the bees with pesticide to keep the mites away.

Blech.

And it looks like the only way to know whether or not your honey was created by a pesticide-laden bee is to buy it locally and ask. Hey, in the spring we might be your local source! I'll keep ya posted. In the meantime, you might find some here.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't realize how well you listen until I see you write "R says". Then I think, she is listening to me. Well thanks for taking an interest in all my crazy plans. Just wait to see what I have up my sleeve next.

lahn said...

So jealous! I want to be a beekeeper, but there is the little problem of being allergic to bees. So, I want all the bee stories instead.
~ lisa

Anonymous said...

I learned a little about the bee process awhile back while reading a story to Gma Irene. This lady decided to quit her dreary job and took on beekeeping. Around that time there was a huge ordeal with some type of disease that killed or infected bees and her business flourished because she was taking better care of her bees. She had learned how to make a variety of products from the beeswax and she received calls from major stores throughout the U.S. ordering her products - so cool. I love the idear. Love, Mom