All hail Queen Esmeralda
Our newest pets arrived last week. We have been eagerly awaiting their arrival since early this year. Yes my friends, if you haven’t already worked it out from the photo, we are now bee keepers! It took a while for us to settle on a name for our Queen. We kept threatening to call it Queen Tara or Queen Andrea (female version of Andrew) – the two bossiest people in this house. Well, since the queen bee is in fact a slave to her colony, Queen Andrea was looking like the most appropriate name for her. But once we set eyes on her last week, it was clear she needed a regal, Victorian sort of name. Ok, enough nonsense from me.
The exciting news – in just a month or two we should be able to extract our first lot of honey. Perhaps 30kg of it!! The bees are so interesting – I keep going outside just to have a look at them. I wish I had a perspex box that I could see through, or perhaps “bee-cam”. I would love to see them working away in there. Yesterday I went to check to see if they were collecting pollen. It looked as though they were just flying around in random sort of circles…until I got closer. Once I stuck my face really quite close (without veil and protective gear – are you impressed?!), I noticed that as some bees landed and went inside, others flew out on their journey to find pollen. They did it so fast that it looked like the same bees flying around in circles. Have you ever seen how a bee carries pollen? It is the cutest thing ever. A big pouch of it on its legs. Have a look at this picture from hilifemedia.com. I will have to practise my photography skills and try to capture a photo like this one.
Sometimes they have so much pollen on them they crash-land and stagger somewhat under the weight. Or perhaps that is because they have drunk too much nectar?! 🙂 I can’t wait to open up the box again and see how many more babies they have made, and how the honey production is going. I have to get more boxes to put on top apparently – I thought one would be enough, but it seems they will outgrow this box in a matter of weeks. Being summer this is the peak of production time, both for more bees and for honey.
The day we picked them up from my friend Russell (who is training me in the way of bees), the kids came dressed in slightly inappropriate clothes. I did encourage them to wear thicker clothes, with sleeves that came all the way down to their wrists, etc, but they were not too keen to listen. Oh well, I thought, they will soon find out. When we in the middle of moving the bees around, Tara let out a bit of a panicked “I have a lot of bees on me”. She had five or six sitting on the front of her rather tight tshirt. I said “don’t panic, just brush them off if you have to”. She then decided that she would not panic and started stroking one of the bees and singing to it. Very cute until she managed to squeeze another bee who promptly stung her. She screamed, but again had to quickly calm herself down or risk getting lots of bees agitated. Sam got stung on his elbow minutes later, yes, where his sleeve rode up on his arm. We could not stop the bee moving process so the kids had to deal with it themselves, and they did remarkably well. The tears stopped after a few minutes, perhaps she did not want to look too much like a baby in front of Russell. The next day Tara very proudly took her sting and a documentary video about bees to school for news.
We had lots of dire warnings from friends and neighbours when we mentioned our plans to keep bees. We were told to expect hundreds of bees flying around, lots of stings, being chased by bees, and worse. Mind you, all these warnings came from people who didn’t keep bees themselves. People who kept bees were pretty relaxed about it. They told me to expect to get stung a few times, but the stings are not too bad (confirmed by my kids – “hurts heaps to start off but is fine soon after”).
Australia is the only country in the world that does not have the varroa mite which is demolishing bee colonies everywhere. It is just a matter of time before we get it too. Anything we can do to keep healthy bees is sure to help. I read somewhere that if there were no bees it would take four years for the world to starve – we are so dependent on them. So far we haven’t had any problems with the bees. They have worked out their flight path, which is slightly different to what I had anticipated, but still fairly out of the main traffic areas for us and our neighbours. They go about their own business quite happily and are not interested in chasing us or stinging us if we get too close. I am sure they will get more agitated when we go to remove their honey but we will be prepared for that. They leave the dog alone and she seems to just ignore them too. I think they are just too busy to bother with us. I want to tell them to slow down…smell the flowers…oh yeah, that is what they are doing! I am sure my garden is going to love having them here. And the national park that is so close to our house is going to be a great source of food for them as well. I have put a bowl of water near their hive so they hopefully drink from there rather than one neighbours pool or the other neighbours little stream. Stay tuned for more bee escapades (or lack thereof)!