Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lessons from a beehive

I love sitting on our porch in the late afternoon.  Especially this time of year, when it is warm but not hot and the Fall breezes are starting to shake the tree limbs.  Our yard is often abuzz this time of day.  Late afternoon is a busy time for our bees as they fly in and out of the hive finishing their day's work.

In the late afternoon, the sun hits the backyard at just the right angle so the light reflects off their tiny bodies.  I am at a loss of words as to how to describe what it looks like, and its impossible for me to catch on a camera.  The other day a fellow beekeeper described it as watching glitter flutter through the air.  It's like a miniature air show.  Magnificent.

You can see the bees from the house, like tiny flying GPS units (that's what hubby calls them) finding pollen, nectar, and water and returning to the hive with their goods.  It never ceases to amaze me!  Imagine if we all had the sense of direction honeybees possess!

Our hive is doing well.  We are new at beekeeping, but we have found our groove and hope we can continue to maintain a healthy hive.  Part of maintaining a healthy beehive involves inspecting the hive once a month.  This includes taking the hive apart and pulling out each frame, checking for pests and disease.  We also check that the workers are doing their jobs (i.e. building comb, storing honey, raising brood) and most of all making sure the queen is present and laying eggs.  Since our hive is so young, we have only done this intensive inspection twice, allowing the bees to get established before we worked with them too heavily.

Inspecting a hive is an experience that I have grown to love.  Both hubby and I wear full protective gear.  Although the gear reduces the possibility of a sting, it does not 100% prevent.  I have been lucky to avoid stings up until this point, its inevitable though, like a rite of passage.

 Hubby smoking the hive

I do often think of those days as a child, running barefoot in the yard, stepping on a bee and suffering the consequences of a sting on my foot.  As a child I could not imagine anything more painful.  As an adult, I know there are many things in life that are more painful than a bee sting.  By no means do I assume a bee sting would not be painful, but I often wonder how it compares to the pain experienced over a course of a lifetime.  Loss of a loved one, a broken heart, disease.  Diabetes has been painful for me and has changed my life, yet made me stronger and more aware.  Is diabetes more painful than a bee sting?  If I can manage this disease with it's needles and finger pricks, can't I handle a measly little bee sting?   Maybe a bee sting is small marbles compared to what I manage everyday.  Of course, ask me again after I have been stung and maybe my response will be different!

Bees are working the outside of the hive.  They work tirelessly to keep the cracks sealed.

I find that suiting up and working the bees offers me the opportunity to clear my mind.  There is a sense of calm and slowness when working with the bees.  It's as if the world slows down and nothing else matters but what is at hand.  Moving slowly, talking quietly and working in unison with hubby is an experience like no other.  In fact, I think every couple should inspect a hive together, its like marriage counseling, it will force you to communicate clearly and work as team.  Imagine how many other things we could learn about ourselves from working with bees.  

I managed to shoot some video of our last inspection so I thought I would share with you.  Hubby is doing a good job of narrating the videos (although at some points he was unaware that I was taping!)  Click on the links to see the video!

Bee Inspection Video 1

Bee Inspection Video 2


  1. I would love to have some bee hives on my farm. I'm just too big of a chicken. lol

  2. I love this post! Thanks for mentioning my giveaway.

    And thanks even more for supporting our honey bees. I know how important they are to NC Agriculture!

  3. Melissa- I "discovered" you in Diabetes Forecast and love your blog. I would love to talk sometime. I don't know anyone in the area that is type 1!

  4. Hi Lisa, thanks for reading my blog! I am so excited to hear that someone read my letter in the magazine! I also don't know any other folks in the area that have Type 1 and would love to chat sometime. You can send me an email if you like. My email address is brownmel1@yahoo.com, look forward to hearing from you!