To Bee or Not To Bee ??

by: Marlene email

Meeting under the old oak tree

That was the question I hoped to get answered when I decided to attend the formative meeting  of  the Eastern Shore Beekeepers Guild. Since the announcement  for the meeting indicated that it was open to anyone interested in bees in general I decided to attend to see what it was all about.  My first surprise as I drove up to the library in Nassawadox, running late as usual, was that the parking lot was already jammed full and both sides of  the street were lined with cars but  it didn’t occur to me  that they were all there for the bee meeting.  As it turned out, so many people showed up that  the meeting had to be moved outside to a breezy spot under a huge old oak tree, everybody toteing their own little library chair. The organizers were delighted with the unexpected large turnout– more than 40 people took time on a busy Saturday morning to try to discover whether or not they have the makings of a beekeeper.  Let’s face it– beekeeping is a pretty unusual hobby. 

Intricacies of the bee box

The speaker was Paul Kist , an experienced beekeeper who manages about 20 hives.  Paul brought with him examples of  just about everything needed to set up an ameteur apiary. The tall white bee box (think home sweet home for bees) was disassembled, parts shown, explained and re-assembled.  A long white beekeeper’s glove, reaching up nearly to the armpit, was passed around for inspection.  I was surprised at the soft feel of the billowy synthetic fiber material designed to protect the arm and sewn into the leather glove. 

Expert Advice

A  Q&A session followed which was most informative — who knew that you can receive a shipment of bees through the USPO ??   Apparently when bees are shipped they come packed in a  screened box,  worker bees just flitting around inside but the queen travels in her own private suite — a little box within the box.  (It’s easy for me to envision a scenario in a post office sorting room where the screen  rips, bees escape,  everyone  starts  running around , arms waving ,  bees angry and buzzing, think a Three Stooges  bumblebee version  version of  Hitchcock’s “The Birds”  ! )  The  Q&A  also elicited  interesting information on why some of the folks  had come to the meeting including several who were hoping for better pollination for their gardens. It’s easy to forget the critical role bees play in food production although it’s not uncommon here to see 10-20 bee boxes along the edges of  farm fields during the flowering stage of  the various crops grown here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Others folks already had their hives but  wanted to learn more about how to solve some beekeeping problems.  And several of the folks there were like myself–  just trying to explore  their  “inner beekeeper”.   And then,  just at the tail end of the meeting, down the road came a parade of about 20 antique tractors, an  American flag  flying from each, driving north at a fast  antique tractor pace.  I have no idea from where they mustered  or where they were going,  but they were a lovely scene of  Americana past and a sweet ending  to our meeting.   So…  I’m still not sure whether “to bee or not to bee”  but  I did learn a lot about what could be an interesting albeit an unusual hobby.  And I’ll definitely be  attending another meeting.

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