Sunday, October 9, 2011

BEEKEEPING SCHOOL CLASS REVIEW



I drove up to the location of the "Introduction to Beekeeping" class and saw this sign.  I knew I was in the right place!  It was in a field at the end of a neighborhood in an industrial area of Houston.  Perfect spot for a bunch of beehives.



Jennifer "The Bee Wrangler" was the instructor and she immediately began by teaching us some of the basics of bees and beekeeping.  She showed the different tools and instruments used in the process, gave us some fascinating history of beekeeping , the different hive types ("Top Bar" and "Langstroth"), and where and how to get them.  She definitely knows her bees! 


She then taught us how to get the smoker going, what to use to make the best smoke and how to keep it going (you don't want to run out of smoke in the middle of messing with your hives).  The smoke calms the bees, puts them into a self preservation mode (they think there is a fire near the hive) so they are more concerned with the hive than you.

After the introduction, we suited up in our bee suits (sorry I couldn't get photos of that, it was too hard to get dressed in the big suit and try to snap photos at the same time).  We then headed over to this fenced off area where she had her multiple hives.  They are tented to provide shade because of the unbearable heat we had here this summer.







Jennifer was SO informative and showed each step of the process of inspecting the hive.  How to pick out the drones, search for the queen, look for invasive bugs such as wax moths and hive beetles, identify the progress of the hive, etc.


Some hives were bustling with activity. For example, somewhere on this frame was the queen.  We actually got to see her, but it was too difficult to get a picture. I guess she wasn't ready for her close up.





As you can see, some frames were more active than others...differences in the progress and age of each hive and time since last honey harvest.

This is me holding a piece of honeycomb that she had to break off.  You see the dark, glistening areas?  It's honey!  It just hasn't been capped off yet.  The bees fill each hole with the honey and then cap it off.  It's processed through a centrifuge-like device that extracts all the honey from the wax.  Click on this picture and see the amazing detail in the honeycomb.






It's amazing how the smoke really calms the bees.  It's an essential part of the process and you just have to use a fine balance of enough to calm them but not so much that it aggravates them.  I think I learned that balance.






Ever wonder how the bees make those honeycombs?  It starts like this, small and seemingly insurmountable. Amazing huh? She said after about a month of activity, this frame would be almost all honeycomb.  


 This is me holding the frame of bees. I asked a lady behind me to take my picture, she took it before I turned around. Oh well. I wanted this photo to show you that it was VERY hands on class.  As nervous as I was before, once I was doing it, it was AWESOME.  






The end result of all the hard work of the bees; A jar of honey I bought after the class. I got a jar that had the cap wax and pieces of honeycomb still in it.  You can actually eat the wax, chew it up, and yes, swallow it!  It's supposed to be very good for you.  Honey has a lot of health benefits for your body, as do other parts of the hive as well.  Jennifer said having a hive was almost like have a medicine chest in your back yard.




I learned all sorts of fascinating things.  The suit does give you a security blanket type of feeling (as well as looking a bit like an astronaut or CDC employee).  And while you can apparently still get stung through one, it's rare, and usually happens if it's tight.  You should always get a loose fitting bee suit, usually a size or two larger than you might otherwise wear.  I wore a size large, and it was a bit tight.  Remember, it goes on OVER your other clothes, jeans, long sleeved shirt, high top shoes/boots, cap, etc. The thing about beekeeping is to just use slow, deliberate movements.  If you ignore the bees, they pretty much ignore you, which I found fascinating.  It wasn't at all like I thought it might be (too many bad TV movies I think).  There are other little things; don't stand in front of the entrance to the hive; try not to squish a bee as it releases a warning pheromone; don't use fast gestures and movements; stay away from colognes and perfumes, etc.  It's truly an amazing experience to see not only how intelligent the bees are, but how much work they put in to keeping the colony hive alive and well.  They regulate the temperature, keeping it cool in the Summer and warm in the Winter, pollinating flowers and food crops, and making group decisions in the best interest of the entire colony.  

So, in the end, would I recommend a beekeeping class?  Oh absolutely!  I never once felt in any danger and any nerves I had in the beginning just disappeared once I got in there and started doing stuff.  I have to give a lot of that thanks to Jennifer, The Bee Wrangler for her passionate defense of bees, and her wide knowledge base of all things "bee".  Of course give a big shout out to the sponsors of the class as well, Round Rock Honey.


If you have any bee removal needs in the Houston and neighboring area, please visit Jennifer at her WEBSITE HERE.
She also has a blog you can enjoy HERE.

And please go to Round Rock Honey and support their efforts by going to their WEBSITE HERE (they sell honey too!).  And remember, if you live in the Texas area, be sure to check out their classes, they have them around the state.  It's a great experience!

Jennifer tells me February is a good time to start a hive.  I'm sensing a "Santa Clause wish list" this year that includes beekeeping supplies!

9 comments:

Robin said...

Very good and informative post. I think that Santa will be bringing you some Bee stuff!

Kelly said...

Awesome!! Glad you had fun. I have been stung so many times, even stepped on a bee as a teen, that I have no fear of bees.

You're going to laugh at this, but I lost my voice yesterday. It's still gone today (allergies.) One of the ladies at church told me to drink tea with honey (have heard that before) BUT she said using honey from your own area makes you heal faster. Not sure why, but she said she's heard this from many people.

1st Man said...

@Robin: Ha, thanks! Yeah, I'm making my list and I'll soon be checkin' it twice, LOL.

@Kelly: I've been stung a few times in my life, bees a couple of times, wasps and hornets probably more often. Yes! Honey that is harvested from where you live is supposed to be a natural treatment (and possible cure/relief) from allergies. Go to a farmers market or maybe look on craigslist for some local honey. Hope it helps. And hope you get better!

Bryan said...

I'm so jealous, I want to take a bee class! I'll have to look for one in my area. I was thinking I'd be nervous too, but you really made it seem not so scary. Thanks for the post. I LOVE your blog by the way, I learn alot and I'm enjoying watching the progress of your farm. Can't wait to see it evolve.

1st Man said...

@Bryan: First of all, thanks so much for visiting and leaving your kind words. This farm is a labor of love and we do want to share it with everyone. Secondly, yes, by all means look for a class in your area. There could be a beekeeping club, or something like that in your city or near you. Also look for the word "Apiary". When I get our hive up and running, I'll give detailed instructions on what I went through, where to find supplies, how we set it up, etc.

Again, thanks for visiting!!

Bee Girl said...

Yay! So glad to hear you enjoyed your first class!!! Keeping bees is so fun and absolutely rewarding! Will you have top bar hives or langstroth hives?

1st Man said...

@Bee Girl: Yay is right! I had SO much fun in the class! I am leaning toward Langstroth. Jennifer suggested that for beginners. I can't remember, what kind do you have? I'm still doing my 'after class' research, just ordered some bee supply catalogs today. I can't wait!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

I think bee keeping would be great..wish I really had a bigger than "Almost an Acre" farm :o(

Tonya said...

I think it fabulous if you can do this. I am very very allergic to bees-so no way could I do this, regardless of how much I like honey!. I swear I almost hyperventilated just reading this post...yeesh!