Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Beekeepers know there’s more to the trade than eating honey

Some beekeepers work only one or two hives to get enough honey for the family; others manage hundreds. One thing is universal: Beekeeping is a complicated undertaking and should not be attempted unless the keeper has a thorough knowledge of what’s ahead.

It sounds simple: buy equipment and an instruction book, order a few pounds of bees and a queen. They’ll arrive by mail when you least expect them.

You’ll stop everything to cater to the instincts of hundreds of females who cannot be taught to obey - can’t be domesticated!

You must do their bidding. You can’t fence them in. They come and go or sleep in and are always free to go to live in a hollow tree or in the walls of a country church.

Your neighbor might not like them - "Your bees are feeding on my apple blossoms. Where’s my honey?" You can reply, "My bees are increasing your harvest; where are my apples?"

A bee hive in the family orchard increases fruit production. The value of bees rented out for pollinating is greater than the value of the honey they might produce.

Frequent change of locations lowers honey production; therefore, many beekeepers make a business of renting out whole apiaries mounted on big trailers.

My husband, Chub, was somewhat familiar with beekeeping when, in the spring of l959, we took our Walt and Nancy to Hamilton, Ill., to tour Dadant’s bee supply company.

All four of us became fascinated by honeybees. We learned that producing honey is not the most important thing that bees do for mankind!

Pollinating blooming fruit trees, melons, beans, clover and much more increases the food supply and improves its quality.

Planned pollination is done by imported, manageable bees, and wild bees pollinate too, of course.

Last Monday I was writing those two paragraphs when the Tribune arrived with a photo story about a one-vehicle accident that resulted in millions of bees being suddenly dumped out of their cozy hives and into the noise and confusion of Kansas City’s traffic.

The accident scattered hives, honey, pollen, wax, brood - everything - and millions of bees were flying over it all.

Homeless, frightened bees filled the air like snowflakes! Firemen and tow-truck drivers tried to work in the sticky mess, residents stayed inside and traffic was rerouted.

Imagine 520 open or broken hive boxes - many releasing about 50,000 frightened worker bees each - plus a queen and a handful of lazy drones.

It was an ugly scene at an exit ramp off busy Highway 35.

The bees were being moved from Oklahoma to Wisconsin, where they were to pollinate fields of cranberry flowers.

Finally, an experienced bee man arrived and began the job of trying to make order out of chaos.

I’m still wondering what will happen to the millions of bees that survived the crash.

My guess is that they found their way to something with that unique "aura" of home. Bees know their hive’s aura from the day they chew out of the birth cell till death.

Before the mishap they found "home" because of its special aura, different from 519 other auras on that huge trailer.

I’m guessing that each of those surviving bees located something bearing their unique aura by midmorning and stayed right with it.

If it was found on the flat bed trailer, they finished the trip. If it was on a hive part in a trash pit, that bee didn’t give a hoot about Wisconsin!

I’m reminded of what our Nancy said after stings caused both eyes to swell shut: "It just shows that beekeeping is not all profit!"

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