Saturday 14 February 2015

Beekeeping for Beginners

Or, .. "How to introduce a bee-phobic to bee keeping"

So I've got this great opportunity to learn the art of beekeeping. Sounds awesome. Right? Lots of honey, mmm...

And I'm totally into the idea of doing good things for the environment. Bees are good right? Pollination and stuff. Creating your own food at home and things like that. We can't keep chickens because of council regulations. We don't grow veggies because it takes more time than we have.  But bees are pretty self sufficient (or so I'm told) so you don't need to do an awful lot of work, just a bit here and there. And all that honey. Right?

So I started doing some research about bees. A slight problem is that my phobia about bees (must find out the technical term) means I can't even stand looking at pictures of bees. Well nice friendly cartoons are ok, like buzzy the bee, or whatever that abc show is. But apart from that, it's not so good. And this presents somewhat of a challenge in learning about stuff you kind of need to know.

But hey, I've got a degree in psychology, so I can treat my own phobias right? So we'll go with an exposure technique. There's different options which are basically just fancy words for face your fears.

The bees have been busy lately, so my trusty mentor, Brian, assures me that it's time to remove some of the honey from the hive (now I'm sure there's a technical term, because you don't just dip your hand in and pull out a jar all ready to eat). What we have to do is remove the frames that the honeycombs are built on. Generally bees don't love you for this - it's their food source and they've worked hard to store it up.  But you smoke them (not sure what this does, must do more research - hope there's no pictures). And you wear protective gear, and it's all good.

So I whipped up a little bee keepers veil thingy, donned cover up clothing (on a hot day, this was difficult, but my fear of the bees helped convince me).  Princess was interested too, so she came along for the ride, standing watching right where it's normally ok.

Hmm, normally. Well, this didn't turn out to be a normal experience at all. The bees were Not.Happy.At.All.  You see, there was a whopping great pine cone thingy lying right near their hive. not just a pine cone, a bunya pine cone. Think pine cone on steroids. And really heavy.  Like this Bunya pine cone. Several kilos.  We realised later, that this had landed on their hive that day. And bee REALLY don't like that kind of thing happening. And apparently one of the times you should really. Leave. Them. Alone is when something like that or a branch falls on their hive. Or if there's thunderstorms (well there weren't thunderstorms, they weren't due for a good hour or so yet).

But we didn't work out all of this until much later.
After princess got stung (bee got caught in her hair and then under sunglasses although we'd tried to foresee that problem... *sigh, guilty mother moment*). I'll never forget the screams.  And that would have wound the bees up even more.  See, they're really clever, and they sense when people are freaking out, like princess, and her mother were.
So we got princess sorted out (and are glad to know that she's not allergic to bees)

I calmed myself down so the bees wouldn't sense I was Freaking Out. And I tried to go out to help again. Poor Brian just needed me to keep the smoker going, to calm the bees, and send them away. I tried, I really tried, but those dang bees just kept buzzing me. And if you haven't experienced it, being buzzed by a bee is no laughing matter.

I tried all the tricks, like wandering off and pretending to be a tree, but those bees were angry, and they just weren't going to buy it.
And I kept trying to Stay Calm and go help again.
But, like I said, those bees were seriously Angry, and they were chasing us all around a massive yard! We had to go hide in the shed to get away from them, and Brian got two stings for his efforts by some bees that got under his net.

Me? I escaped stings, but felt physically ill for the next few hours just thinking about it. And felt terrible for getting my daughter stung. (if we can get her near those bees again, she'll be wearing a veil).

Later, Brian said that was the worst day he has ever had with his bees. Probably not the best introductory experience for a bee-phobic

I'm not sure that beekeeping is for me. (Sad about my honey dreams...)But Brian thinks we should give it another go, perhaps with a smaller hive, starting from scratch (with a few thousand less bees than what's in his hive).

And me, well, it's lucky I'm stubborn. I may overcome this phobia one day after all.

And as for the bees? Well we still got their honey ;)