Take up bee­keep­ing

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors @out­look.com

The win­ter blues have hit South­ern Mary­land.

Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary al­ways seem like the long­est months of the year. The weather is dreary and cold. The sun it­self is on va­ca­tion, and we’re left wait­ing for its re­turn. And noth­ing is worse this time of year than get­ting a cold.

Do you load up on Vitamin C or try one of the medic­i­nal op­tions at the drug­store? Or maybe you fol­low the ad­vice of an age-old proverb that ad­vises a per­son to “starve a fever and feed a cold.”

My fa­vorite rem­edy is pretty sim­ple — a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey. The heat and lemon help open the nasal pas­sages, while the syrupy honey coats the throat. It doesn’t cost much and pro­vides re­lief.

But I’m not ref­er­enc­ing the kind of honey you buy in a plas­tic bear off the shelf at the gro­cery store. No, I’m talk­ing about the good stuff that comes straight from the hon­ey­comb, golden and fla­vor­ful, honey in the raw, the way Mother Na­ture in­tended it to be.

Lucky for me, my sis­ter has her own farm where she tends chick­ens, goats and — you guessed it — bees. She sends me two pints of the best honey ev­ery fall after she har­vests her hives. I have to keep the jars on a high shelf in the kitchen, oth­er­wise the kids eat it by the spoon­ful and it’s gone be­fore I even get a chance to en­joy it.

You might be in­ter­ested in bee­keep­ing and this is the time of year to start get­ting ready. It might feel like Jan­uary is a bit early to be plan­ning and pre­par­ing, but the next few weeks are cru­cial for any­one who wants to get into bee­keep­ing this spring.

Maybe you want your own bees be­cause of the re­cent news that hon­ey­bee pop­ula- tions are de­clin­ing. Al­most 90 per­cent of flow­er­ing plants de­pend on an­i­mals for pol­li­na­tion, with bees ac­count­ing for a big por­tion of that.

If you grow your own fruits and veg­gies, hav­ing a bee­hive nearby will in­crease your gar­den’s yield. How many times have you had to fer­til­ize squash by hand or risk hav­ing an­other fruit wither on the vine be­cause it wasn’t fer­til­ized? That won’t hap­pen if you have your own crew of bees vis­it­ing all the flow­ers in your gar­den.

And if you want a hobby that will pro­vide end­less fas­ci­na­tion, bee­keep­ing will never get dull. Hav­ing 60,000 of th­ese in­dus­tri­ous in­sects in your own back­yard will help you be­come a mas­ter of ob­ser­va­tion. You’ll watch and learn about the dif­fer­ent jobs bees have in the hive.

We’ve all heard the phrases worker bees and queen bee. With your own hive you’ll be able to get first­hand knowl­edge of why bees get those ti­tles. And you’ll get more at­tuned to the world you are liv­ing in, pay­ing at­ten­tion to the cy­cle of the sea­sons, what’s blooming and when and how much rain we’ve had.

I should put in a disclaimer here too that bees are not gen­er­ally ag­gres­sive and do not nor­mally st­ing un­less pro­voked to the point that their lives are in dan­ger or they think the

hive is be­ing at­tacked. Wasps, which are of­ten con­fused with bees, are much more ag­gres­sive and likely to bite or st­ing. That said, any­one who keeps bees will get stung on oc­ca­sion.

Of course, get­ting honey straight from the comb is a good rea­son, too, al­though keep in mind you usu­ally won’t get enough pro­duc­tion the first year of bee­keep­ing to har vest any honey.

And did you know that honey tastes vary de­pend­ing on the re­gion and time of year? Honey har vested ear­lier in the season is lighter and more del­i­cate-fla­vored while later season honey is darker and has a stronger fla­vor. And of course the taste de­pends on what the bees have been vis­it­ing, which is strongly re­gion­al­ized. Don’t for­get other prod­ucts such as beeswax can­dles, cer­tain lip balms, and beeswax fur­ni­ture pol­ish wouldn’t be pos­si­ble with­out bees.

The up­front costs for bee­keep­ing are sig­nif­i­cant when start­ing from scratch. The mon­e­tary com­mit­ment is around $500, but if you’re pretty handy, you could pos­si­bly build your own hive and save a bit.

You’ll need at least one hive, and some ex­pe­ri­enced bee­keep­ers rec­om­mend start­ing out with a sec­ond one, which adds a lit­tle to the bot­tom line. Just the bees alone have a hefty price tag of about $100 or more for a start-up colony.

There are a cou­ple dif­fer­ent kinds of bee­hives to choose from, each with their own pros and cons, and you’ll have to de­cide which kind to use and where to in­stall it on your prop­erty.

You’ll need to pur­chase ba­sic tools like a smoker and bee suit. And then comes the fun part, you’ll have to de­cide what kind of bees to or­der, and you’ll need to do that soon be­cause they sell out fast.

There are two op­tions, buy­ing a nu­cleus, or nuc, or get­ting a pack­age of bees. If you don’t know the dif­fer­ence and which to buy (hint: a nuc only fits a Langstroth hive), tak­ing a class and talk­ing to ex­pe­ri­enced bee­keep­ers will help you de­cide.

While there are plenty of books about be­gin­ning bee­keep­ing avail­able nowa­days, bee­keep­ing is com­pli­cated. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a bee­keep­ing class to help you make de­ci­sions and con­nect you with a whole wealth of in­for­ma­tion from lo­cal bee­keep­ers who have ex­pe­ri­ence keep­ing bees.

In our area, the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Mary­land Bee­keep­ers is hold­ing a begin­ner’s bee­keep­ing course in Fe­bru­ary at the Calvert County Sports­man’s Club in Prince Fred­er­ick.

The class will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 11, 18, and 25. The cost, which in­cludes a text­book, is $40 per per­son or $45 for a cou­ple who shares a book.

The class fills quickly, so if you are in­ter­ested, con­tact Ch­eryl at ccken­ney.md@gmail.com for en­roll­ment in­for­ma­tion and to see if seats are still avail­able.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.