Pollen, pollen everywhere. But without buzzing bees who fly, all is naught. It takes bees. Lots of bees. Hungry bees. Many people are passionate about their beekeeping. They have become fascinated by the life of the fuzzy little honeybee flying around their garden. The more you learn about what this honeybee is doing from day to day, the more amazed you will become. The fear of being stung just disappears. One’s curiosity and fascination take over.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]he (most of the colony is female) is a very social being that lives in a hive–unlike many other insects. The honeybee does not live underground but in a colony with each bee having its specific duty to perform—cleaning, nursing, repairing, or capping. There is just one very prolific queen bee, a number of drones (the males with only one purpose in life which is to mate with the queen) and many worker bees with many specified jobs to perform. The worker bee flies out into meadows, fields and gardens usually within a three mile radius to gather up food and water and transport them back to the hive. It is known that honeybees are in constant communication. An amazing fact is that the queen bee has the ability within her to decide if she is going to produce a male or female bee. Imagine that!! Oh dear, what does this forecast for the 22nd century? And because honeybees congregate in large units, the hive with many thousands of bees in one place, they play a large part in commercial agriculture throughout the world. The honeybee is a critical part of our food supply today.
AS A HOBBY
Many in Western North Carolina have built hives on their property—to allow them to give gifts of honey to family and close friends, or perhaps just for a new adventure. Carrie and Jerry Keller lived in Maggie Valley in the late 80’s and early 90’s and began keeping bees when their children were born. Now, they are passionate about their hobby and find the bees “fascinating creatures.” Carrie said, “About one-third of all the food we eat has been pollinated by a bee–all the fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It is critical that people realize how lethal pesticides can be to insects and to our beloved honeybees. The herbicide RoundUp on dandelions and other weeds can cause the loss of many bees.” She even said, “Some beekeepers try to find out when their county is planning to spray for mosquitos in their area and close off their hives with screens to stop the bees from foraging that day. Western North Carolina is really a honeybee friendly area.”
The North Carolina State Beekeepers Association is one of the oldest and largest beekeeping associations in the United States. The state offers a wonderful support network through the County Cooperative Extension Service for those interested in learning about what is involved. Beekeeping classes are held regularly in every county throughout the state and are not particularly expensive. Through the NCSBA there are certain levels of recognized and tested beekeeping, beginning with the Certified Beekeeper, Journeyman Beekeeper, Master Beekeeper, and Master Craftsman Beekeeper. You are considered well qualified, and it is quite an honor when you breach the level of a Master Beekeeper or Master Craftsman Beekeeper. In addition, the Western North Carolina Arboretum offers beekeeping classes, as does Blue Ridge Community College. The numbers have increased dramatically at beekeeping club meetings. The state, county and even the city of Asheville are promoting bees. On June 26, 2012, the Asheville City Council voted unanimously to become the inaugural Bee City USA. This year in June a number of events took place to celebrate pollination both for kids and adults, to bring about a better understanding of man’s dependence on the small critters, who buzz around us.
A wonderful place to get beekeeping supplies is Jon and Sara Christie’s Wild Mountain Bees at 425 Weaverville Highway in Asheville. Having just opened this new retail location, the small house tucked away on the hill is full of beekeeping supplies, equipment, protective clothing, jars, buckets and labels for the honey, pollinator friendly plants, beeswax candles, and, of course, local honey. However, do note it is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 to 5:30. Jon maintains many hives, probably well over 100 mostly in Madison County. He also sells at local tailgate markets. As president of the Madison County Beekeeping Association, he is involved in many aspects of beekeeping, including supplying “nucs” (a miniature version of a hive–a nucleus), and offering classes. Sara, his wife, is knowledgeable about the many beneficial aspects of honey. She says it is important to buy local honey, as it is considered by many as an old-fashioned remedy for allergies. If you are consuming honey that has been made from the pollen and nectar of a plant causing you an allergic reaction, then you may not need to use an antibiotic medicine. Certainly in addition to boosting your energy level, honey is said to have many healing properties.
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