I have a love of bees because of what they do for us. Besides providing pollenization that our food supply needs, they also provide honey for sweetening which I also ingest for the purpose of warding off local allergens. My late husband was an accomplished beekeeper. I enjoyed learning beekeeping by working the bees with him. This was in the early 1980’s. He had the traditional white wooden bee boxes with frames inside to hold the honeycombs. We used a hive smoker to help us “work” the bees. We would smoke them by blowing smoke from this smoker onto the bees. This served to make them “drunk” and then we were able to “work” them. We took the frames out, cut the caps off the wax which held the honey in and put the frames full of beeswax filled with honey in a large, steel tank on a support system inside the tank made for the frames called an extractor. We put the tank lid on and then turned the hand crank. This movement of the frames around the inside of the tank slung the honey out by centrifigal force. Yes, I might get stung once or twice while doing this, so don’t try working bees if you are allergic to bee stings. I did not have “real” beeking clothes myself so I would wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants and put rubber bands around my sleeve cuffs and pants legs at the bottom. This was done to try and prevent the smoke drunk bees from crawling onto my skin under my clothes. Sometime they would get past the barrier I tried to create and eventually sting me. They crawl all over you but don’t sting when you are working them because of their drunkenness. It’s interesting what the smoke does to them.
Now, honey bees are in trouble. They need your help more than ever. Without honeybees pollinating US agricultural crops our food supply will be in trouble. “Colony collapse disorder” has decimated entire populations of honeybees. Thankfully some people are concerned enough to educate the public and help the bees. There is a new movie called Nicotine Bees about how huge agribusiness is coating their seeds with chemicals called neonicotinoids that end up in pollen and on leaves that may be a factor in “colony collapse disorder”.
In the Austin area there is a new Austin – Urban – Beekeeping MeetUp Group to help the bees. Our first meeting is soon. I’d love for you to join us! Go to MeetUp.com and join up!