I grew up with honey bees. My dad raised several hives for many years and I remember “helping” with just about everything I could. I had a special spot in the yard, my “bee spot,” where I could safely stand and watch from a distance while dad was in his bee suit tending the hives.
As long as the hives were not being disturbed we could get very close to them, within a foot or two. Dad would explain that the bees knew who we were and that we didn’t mean them any harm, and if we walked softly and kept our voices quiet, they wouldn’t mind if we watched them work. We’d lean against a tree next to the hives and watch the bees coming and going, carrying pollen, dancing on the landing, and keeping the hive tidy. They were absolutely fascinating.
Helping raise honeybees taught me patience and respect.
In the beehive you have to earn your way to the top, and only the most experienced bees are allowed to go out and gather pollen and nectar. Through dance-like movement, incoming bees tell the outgoing bees where the best nectar is. A bee landing with sacs full of pollen and a stomach full of nectar will pass their goods over to a younger bee, who will then shuttle it into the hive. Every bee has a purpose and every bee knows what is going on in the hive at all times.
Helping raise honeybees taught me the value of communication and teamwork.
We helped take care of the bees all year, and come honey season, it was their turn to help take care of us by sharing some of their honey. If it was a great year, they would have packed away more than enough for them, and some for us as well. Honeybees are like the ultimate preppers, always making sure they have plenty of pollen and honey to last them during hard times.
Helping raise honeybees taught me about preparation and planning ahead.
Our bees were part of the homestead; they were always around the house, stopping at the bird bath to catch a drink, but mostly bouncing from flower to flower around the yard and garden. They worked from sun up to sun down every day.
At ten years old, helping spin the honey out of the comb was the big event of the year. After tending the bees all summer and gathering the heavy hive boxes in fall, we’d turn our tiny kitchen into the honey extracting room. Four at a time the frames were spun, and then the honey would be filtered and bottled. The house was always dripping in honey when we were finished.
Helping raise bees taught me that hard work pays off.
Fast forward 20 years and Karl and I are heading into our first spring on our first homestead together. Raising honeybees was at the top of our list! Supplies and bees are officially ordered and soon we will be assembling frames and awaiting the arrival of the bees in the middle of April.
Honeybees are really something special. If you aren’t in a position to raise your own, but enjoy honey, you can help the bees by planting their favorite flowers in your yard. Honeybees have a lot of interesting quirks and behaviors- and every little thing I learn about them makes me more in awe of their work.
As a child I learned a lot from our honeybees, and I can only imagine what I will learn from them as an adult!
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