Friday, March 18, 2011

What's All the Buzz About?

Around this time last year, Eric, Ada, and I went to the Bell Museum for a presentation about bees. I know, I know -- not exactly a wild a crazy night out, but it's close to where Eric works, there was a display about food there at the time that included pictures from Hungry Planet that I wanted to see and, with a new baby, we were taking the opportunity to get out of the house together for short jaunts.

The bee presentation ended up being, well, fascinating. We learned that bees feed over about a 2 square mile area, it takes 2-3 drops of nectar to make one drop of honey, and the queen lays about 1500 - 2000 eggs in a day. The presenter showed us how they extract honey from a hive. Eric loved the science and I loved the honey.

In order to raise bees in Minneapolis, you have to take a course about raising bees. Unfortunately, the next course at the U was full, so we signed up for October. October rolled around, we were starting to hunker down for the winter, and when the reminder about the bee course arrived in my e-mail inbox, we were decidedly unenthusiastic.

It's a weekend-long course! Who can sacrifice an entire weekend? Who can find that much childcare?

Turns out, we can. We switched to the March course and traded off attending -- Eric took the mornings, I took the afternoons. It was a mad dash to exchange information between sessions.

"Quick tell me what you learned before you forget," Eric would tell me.

"Um, the smoker demonstration wasn't very helpful because I couldn't see. I think we'll just have to practice. Raccoons won't bother the bees. We'll just let the parent colony die in the second year. By dividing the colony in the spring, you facilitate a swarm and create two colonies. The second is called a... oh, shoot, what is it called? A divide! That's what it's called."

We were frantic, full of information about bees and our kid as we swapped responsibilities.

It was fun. Once again, Eric loved the science (the adult bees maintain a temperature of 90-95 degrees in the brood nest!) and I loved the honey (we got to sample ones from around the world and I couldn't believe how many different flavors bees could come up with!).

By the end of the day on Saturday, we were texting frantically back and forth trying to figure out if this was something we'd be able to start this spring. Turns out, we should be able to. It's been a mad dash to get the Minneapolis honeybee permit and to buy the bees before the supplier in Stillwater, MN runs out of "packages" of bees, as they're called. We're taking the risk of ordering the bees before we have the neighbors sign off (we have to get 100% of the neighbors right next to our property to sign and 80% of neighbors whose property is within 100 feet of ours). We're also taking the risk in assuming that Eric is not allergic to them. He's never been stung in spite of being a country boy. I, on the other hand, stepped on a bee every summer in various backyards around the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Turns out (as we learned in the course) that bee venom allergies are very rare. A local reaction (including a lot of swelling) is not an allergic reaction.

So we're keeping bees! Watch this spot for more updates as this adventure begins and when we have a subscription to this journal:


Alessandra @Tribal Times said...

Our neighbors have bees and we went over to the hives a few weeks ago to check on them. They were alive and well!

Rhena said...

So glad to hear about at least one person whose bees survived winter!!