Friday, May 23, 2008

Pass The Bees Please

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Wilmington Island resident, Scott Barnard, for a chance to get up close and personal with some bees. Bees, of late, have been in the news due to colonies collapsing all over the country. There is talk of a virus being to blame. My interest in the bees was not as a researcher though. Nor was it as a garden center employee. I just thought it would be really cool.

Christine and Scott Demonstrate The Finest in Beekeeper Fashion

I work around bees all the time. They buzz inches from my face as I water the Ligustrum. I watch them swoon over Salvia and go bananas for African Basil blooms. So, why was I itching for a hive visit? Simply put, I wanted to see if I could walk the walk. It's one thing to see a few bees on flowers. It's another to have hundreds of them shaken from their homes a few feet in front of you. Would I panic and run for cover? I needed to know. I needed to know if the bees would best me.

The reality, which beekeepers, like Scott, are anxious to get out to the masses, is that honey bees are not aggressive bees. They are not the monsters that our swatting and panic would make them out to be. Scott was nice enough to loan me a book called "Beekeeping For Dummies" which helps explain bees to even the biggest, well "dummy."

One of the key beekeeping tools talked about in the book is called a smoker. By smoking a hive, before removing the frames, you decrease the number of bees flying around. Their instinct is to go inside and escape the pretend forest fire.

Bees Have A Lot To Teach Us
Their ability to communicate, through chemical pheromones and dance surpasses most of what you'll get from your kids at the dinner table. The Queen can signal her worker bees to build more comb, take care of young, search for food, and even store food neatly. The miracle is that she does this without threatening to take away access to the Internet, scarfing their cell phones, or beating them senseless!

Learning about bees is a good idea for even those who will never keep a hive. Firstly, it will allow you to wander through any garden with ease. Secondly, your new Zen attitude toward the buzzing beauties can be passed on to children in your life. (There will be no more shrieks of terror upon spotting one.) Lastly, you will be able to see how bees effect every fruit and veggie you put on your table.


Here Scott uses a hot knife to uncap cells. The frame will then
be placed in a stainless steel extractor that will use centrifugal
force to remove the honey.

Gardens can be designed to attract bees. It is similar to attracting butterflies. Most of the plants chosen are perennials. Bees, however, have their own favorite finds. Many of them might already be in your yard.

Bee-Attracting Plants
Blueberry Bushes
Crepe Myrtles
Orange Blossoms
Red Bud Trees
Indian Hawthorn
Purple Cone Flowers
Mexican Bush Sage
And much more!

I hope you've learned a little bit about bees. Thanks to the Barnard family for allowing me time with "their girls." The bees were perfect ladies, and didn't sting me once.

Please watch for bee-friendly merchandise at Hester & Zipperer.

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