I’m starting this blog because there’s not enough neglected space on the internet!LOL!
I have two other neglected blogs out there, one about special education and the other about Linux. They each have good information and entries about their respective subjects, but now I have a real urge to explore something new so it’s time for a new blog. Attention deficit much?
So why am I blogging bee keeping? Well, because I seem to have caught the bug and it hasn’t diminished the past month or so, and the more I read/see/hear the more I like it. First off, I don’t own any hives. I don’t know anyone (right now) who does. So how did I get interested? While the foundation was laid a long time ago, I can tell you just how it got started.
About a month ago, my oldest son had to give a presentation for 4th grade on some animal. He had to tell how in over-wintered and about its habitat. His topic was wasps. I had a few ideas about how we might do it, and we began looking for a few books, and some resources. Then, we went outside to take some pictures of wasps. I knew just where to go to get these pictures, as I had some garlic chives that were blooming. There are always tons of a certain type of wasp that enjoy pollinating these flowers, along with other assorted wasps and bees. We did get a few good pictures, but I was struck by how few wasps and bees there were among these flowers on a sunny late afternoon day. A visit to the butterfly bushes did not serve us any better. There just weren’t that many bees of any type.
I happened to be a regular listener of NPR’s Science Friday podcasts, and happened to see that one of the segments had to do with honey bees. I thought this would be a good thing to listen to with my son, since it was kind of related and it might be useful to see if I could get his interest in something besides the Titanic. As we listened to this particular episode, the ideas began coming together all at once. I had seen firsthand what was happening with the pollinators in my own yard, and discovered that this was something that was affecting our whole country, if not the whole world! In fact, it makes the whole global warming thing very, very pale by comparison. I knew I could do this, and it occurred to me that I might actually enjoy it! As we’ll see, this particular hobby intersects a lot of my interests and background. So I began seriously researching. I began watching assorted YouTube videos that various beekeepers had made, reading a few blogs and visiting other websites as well as listening to beekeeping podcasts. My fascination just deepened. And then I stumble upon the PBS Nature’s broadcast about the bees, and the sense of urgency, along with my interest, deepened.
So now my short term goal is to have a great beekeeping blog by someone who does not keep bees, at least until I begin keeping bees myself. To my knowledge, this is the first pre-bee beekeeping blog around, so y’all can follow me along as I look at honey bees and how it fits into my own personal ecology, theology and psychology.
I’m a school teacher who teaches individuals with severe and profound disabilities and I’m a parent of a son on the autism spectrum. You can read all about that on my other blog. I’m also a computer enthusiast, so you can read somewhat about that on my Linux blog. While those two things about me are nice and current, my interest in bees goes back much further than either of those interests. I grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Iowa and graduated with a degree in agriculture education from Iowa State University. So there is a great deal of intersection between beekeeping and where I came from.
I do have a basic understanding of what it takes to care for animals, which is why I haven’t had a lot of interest in it prior to now! It’s a ton of work and it is a huge responsibility that I don’t think many people take seriously or understand. Maybe more on that later. But milking cows 2x a day everyday taught me all about the serious work of caring for animals. I studied a broad variety of subjects for the Ag Ed degree, including some entomology but my main interests were in botany and horticulture. So there’s at least some rudimentary knowledge to apply here. I have also taught biology, chemistry and physical science in an earlier life.
As far as practical knowledge, I don’t have a lot about raising bees. I spent most of my life killing bees, frankly. I’ve been stung by bumble bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets at various times. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it from a honey bee, before though. I’ve gotten stung more by the fire ants here in Georgia than anything else. Hovever, once I saw the Nature program, that radically changed.
I live in the metro Atlanta area in Newton county. I have about two-thirds of an acre of land in a fairly rural area. I do have a number of neighbors, including one who raises pitbulls. I figure if he can raise pitbulls, honeybees shouldn’t be an issue for the neighbors! But I plan on talking to those who are right around me, about it before diving in too deeply.
I have a number of peach trees, plum trees and other trees that bloom in the early spring. I also have a number of blueberry and blackberry bushes as well as a bunch of butterfly bushes on my property. One thing that alerted me that there was a serious pollinator problem is the fact that I haven’t gotten any peaches in over 3 years. I haven’t ever seen a plum on any of the trees, but I understand they don’t do well here anyway. And where my butterfly bushes used to be extremely active, there is only a fraction of activity there as there was 5 years ago.
Based on these observations, combined with the news that I’m just now getting up to speed on, I knew we were in serious trouble, as far as pollination and our food supply. The knowledge and realization all intersected and gelled within the past month.
So, what am I going to do? Well, I’ve signed up for an introductory ½ day course at the end of this month at the Atlanta Botanical Center. It’s about 35 miles away, but hopefully traffic won’t be so bad that early in the morning on a Saturday. I’m also looking onto going to the metro beekeeping club meeting in a couple of weeks at the same location. As far as my yard, I do have a fair amount of material for bee food, but I’ve already begun propagating more butterfly bushes. In a sense, I’ve been caring for whatever bees have been around by having a lot of flowering plants for them to feed on. At the moment, the major pollinators are bumble bees with a few varieties of wasps helping out. However, I’ve noticed that the wasps seem to be pickier about which plants they choose to visit. And overall, there fewer and fewer of all of these over the past several years. I’m sure some of the late freezes we’ve had in the past have had an adverse impact on the bees and their flowers.
As far as keeping hives, I know that I’m not keen to make it a business. I briefly considered it, and it may yet turn into something, but at the moment this is purely a sideline in order to help my trees and fruits produce. Some honey would be nice, but I think I would be overwhelmed by much more than 50 pounds. And since I’m not keen to invest a lot up front in money, the top bar hive looks very appealing. By the blogs and podcasts I’m following, it appears as though there is a growing interest in this flavor of beekeeping and it might be just the thing for me just starting out. Since deciding to get in the bee biz… Beekeeping inherently makes a person more aware of their environment, or at least certain aspects of it.
As an Iowa farm person, I have an appreciation of corn and soybean fields and cow pastures that most nonfarm people would be hard pressed to understand. Driving on country roads during the evenings in August and looking at the cornfields was a major pastime where I grew up. It’s not something I would just go out and do today, but if I happen to be among crop fields, it’s just a matter of instinct to look at them and appraise how they are doing. Now when I drive around, I look at the terrain and the habitat, especially for the flowering plants in the area. In my own yard, I’m making closer inspections of the flowering plants that are growing, and the activity around them. I can see why beekeeping thrives in Georgia, because we have things flowering and shedding pollen almost the whole year ’round. The metro Atlanta area is ground zero for pollen and the associated allergies, so I would imagine this would be prime bee country. However, the metro area is over run by people and most of them don’t understand how important honey bees are to our economy. Georgia’s largest industry is agriculture and most of that relies on pollination of some sort. If the bees suffer, farmers suffer and the whole state suffers. Not to mention all the animals depending on the assorted seeds and fruits for food.