When my grandsons Dylan and Tyler asked if we could raise bees, it felt like the right thing to do.
My dad raised honeybees when I was a little girl. He told us about 3000 year old edible honey from Egyptian tombs and quoted facts from books on the ancient history of the honeybee. He believed in the healing power of honey and told us we should eat honey instead of white sugar.
Our clover buzzed with honeybees, and I stepped on a few and got stung, but I’ve always loved honeybees. Years later, I wanted to teach our children and grandchildren about the magical bee, but, sadly, they had all but disappeared from our clover-filled lawn.
Honeybees have been successfully doing their work for over 20 million years, so when we got our hives, it made sense to follow the path of the natural and biodynamic beekeepers. Bees have been weakened over the past 100 years from pesticides, chemical use and modern beekeeping. The only solution seemed to strengthen their immune systems by allowing their intelligence to rule.
I contacted a biodynamic beekeeper, Michael Thiele, who sold us 2 top bar Golden hives from Germany. (See photo on Bee Stories page.) He told us this construction was good for the honeybees. We were blessed to find Warren, a local beekeeper, who was willing to help us with our top bar hives. He created 2 nucs or nucleus colonies for us from his beehives. And so, the adventure began.
In the spring of 2009, we got bees!! The grandchildren were ages 4-17. When they saw the bees, they immediately fell in love. Most honeybees are pretty gentle and usually easy to work with. No one was afraid, even with many bees flying around.
Beekeepers agree that honeybees have a relaxing effect on people. We often stood outside the hive, far enough from the guarded front, and stared at the thousands of honeybees flying in and out of the hive carrying pollen and flower nectar. When we watched the bees and listened to their soft buzz, it put us in a bee trance.
Malibu, Tori and Tyler’s 8 week old labradoodle puppy, sensed the magical moment and ran as fast as he could under the hive that had swarmed, then to the swarm in front and next to the swarm in the tree. She continued this triangular run until she was exhausted. She had so much fun celebrating with bees that we made her part of our Bee Team.
As beekeepers know these days, beekeeping is difficult. One year we lost a hive to varroa mite damage. The next year was dry and hot. All the flower nectar dried up, and we had to feed the bees in the fall. I accidentally spilled some syrup on the hive table. The sweet syrup attracted robber bees and yellow jackets. A war began, and in the end, the hive was destroyed. So we started again.
As we worked with our gentle bees, our appreciation of them grew. We realized that other kids were curious about honeybees, but also afraid of them because we no longer see honeybees in our yards and gardens. Kids don’t know the difference between aggressive yellow jackets and honeybees.
To help kids understand the miraculous honeybee, our Bee Team created a DVD: WLB TV We Love Honeybees. See for yourself. Click here to get ordering information!