The final week of April, students were shocked when they went to post office window to pick up their packages, and saw on the counter a mesh screened box, filled with ten to fifteen thousand honeybees. I had ordered this colony of Italian Honeybees from the Walter Kelley Company in Kentucky and was ecstatic about their arrival.
I kept the bees in a cool, dark basement until the evening, when it was time to release them. Installing a colony of bees is pretty intense. You have to rigorously shake a box of fragile insects that are notorious for stinging. I chose to buy Italian bees because I had read that they were a more docile breed; still I couldn’t imagine they could be in a good mood after three bumpy days in transit. Somehow, I managed to not get stung while doing this!
So far the bees seem to be doing very well. They are a low maintenance hobby. Once their super (that’s the name of a bee box) is full of pulled honey comb, you stack an empty one on top of the full ones so that the colony can expand and store more honey. Once about three of these are full, the bees have about enough honey to survive through the winter. Anything additional that the bees produce, is surplus which is okay for us to take.
The bees are, generally, pretty friendly. I’ve been stung on four different occasions, usually because I was making distressful swatting motions toward mosquitoes while trying to inspect the hive. I recently got a hive smoker with which you can pump smoke on the bees during a hive inspection. This calms down the bees because it covers up the banana scented “alarm” pheromone which bees release when they feel threatened. This makes me less likely to get stung in case the bees become panicked, thinking that I’m a predator.
In addition to collecting honey, bees are important for farms, gardens, and the ecosystem because they are pollinators. Pollinators are important because they fertilize plants by moving pollen from the male to female species. Common pollinators besides honeybees include butterflies, wasps, dragonflies, and bats.