Friday, July 12, 2019

I Tried Beekeeping for a Year

and my experience went from mind blown to face stung...

Bee Sting to Face
Realistic Rendition of a Honey Bee Stinging my Face
If you like the artwork, leave a smiley face in the comments!

February of last year, I was at our local apiary and requested a simple hive set-up for $50. This included 2 basic boxes, some frames that were slightly dilapidated, and little to no education. I was determined to start my hive. Prior to this, I was in Oregon, visiting friends on a road trip and they had one as well. Short story is that their last colony collapsed unfortunately due to the cold weather, so they let their box and dead bodies just sit there. The day before I came to visit, scouts had removed the corpses and made this their new home for the queen. All of us, especially my friend were ecstatic that they created a new community! With this in mind, I was hopeful I'd have my own colony, without the process of purchasing a queen and more.

April became an exciting month because after a long shift, I returned home to find what I thought was a swarm around my hive. It wasn't until the next afternoon that I finally knew what a swarm actually looked like. A literal tornado of honey bees  took over a quarter of the backyard and prepared the entrance for the queen. From what I understand, not many lucky souls get to have the experience of seeing a phenomenon.

From that day through the following May, I'd check on their buzzing home, wave to them, wish them good fortune, dance out of pure joy. Life was pretty peaceful having honeybees helping the neighborhood. Sadly, the hive was becoming so large, I had no idea if I was allergic to bees, but wanted to help the population. I called around local beekeeping associations in hopes to find someone willing to purchase the package deal or harvest the honey and possibly share a sample. I definitely wasn't educated enough and I didn't own a bee suit because I didn't want anything to do with them stinging me. Yes, bees can still sting through a suit.

The colony eventually grew too big to handle. So much, that the hive was beginning to grow outside and under their box. I ended up having a random text message come from my dad one morning to let me know he was stung from the bees. Thankfully he was okay and has been stung before. He did kind of look like Sloth in the Goonies from the swelling and had to go to the walk-in for an infection at the sting location, but his distorted noggin went back to normal after a couple days. Both of us thought it was a fluke since he had just mowed the yard and some of the debris unfortunately disturbed their peace. Not even a week later, I stood about 15' from the buzzing-winged creatures and tried to peer under the box to make sure everything was okay. That's when things got worse. One made a beeline (get it?) straight for my upper lip and dug its needle deep in to my subcutaneous layer of tissue, probably even to muscle and wiggled similar to a nervous tech at a terrible blood test clinic until its rear end dislodged from my face. I screamed in horror and ran back in to the house faster than lightning.

Disappointingly, I believe they became africanized. In addition, when trying to learn about such characteristics, the internet gets a few facts confused about the term africanized itself. I'm no entomologist, but what I do know, is that's two weeks in a row of being stung and don't need anymore.

My solution did not involve pesticides. I contacted a local beekeeper to take everything back to their property so they could be taken care of with less interaction and still pollinate. Moving forward, I will not own another hive, but will pass along the encouragement to learn and educate yourselves prior to diving in to something like beekeeping and help find alternative ideas to keep pollinators around.