[note: this is a draft post from early in 2006 before CCD – colony collapse disorder]
If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. ~ Albert Einstein ~
Keeping bees is rewarding. In 1972 Jules acquired his first hive back on thehomestead in New Zealand after he spotted a swarm of bees hanging from a tree of our one and only neighbor in Stafford. 10 hives grew into 40 hives in a matter of a year. He sold honey to a merchant in the near-by town of Hokitika. He continued his love affair with honey and bees on our 10 acres in Florida where we had a huge honey house that stockedDadantsupplies ( Jules was a distributor for the area) and in the back of the property behind one of the ponds he had over 200 hives. The honey house was stocked with jars of honey from our hives and locals would come and buy from us. One of our clients who lived not far up the same rural country road from us was theBellamy Brothers – their hit song of the 70’s was “Let Your Love Flow.” (Any time we were out in the front playing, when they drove by on their big touring bus, they would give us a great big greeting with their horn.) Jules & family also attended the Dade Country Fair and flea markets in the area selling our honey and other honey related products (candles, candy, pollen, etc). Jules got so good that he could tend the hives without wearing protective clothing and veil; however, we still had our share of stings.
Moving here to Pasadena didn’t stop Jules from keeping bees; he acquired 10 hives from an “old timer” in the area who was happy to pass along his hives to another beekeeper. The 10 hives remained hidden behind the garage for years until the nursery growing grounds that were on two sides of our property were sold and developed into a school.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t safe to keep bees around with the children’s lunch area (bees are attracted to sweet smells) and soda vending machines so close; however, that doesn’t keep us from wanting to get our hands back on some bees! Keeping bees isn’t always sweet; disease is common among bees. In Florida a horrible disease swept through the bees and Jules had to burn the hives and equipment which was very traumatic for all involved. But we couldn’t be down for long; we’d order a new queen and worker bees and it was back to work making, dividing hives and harvesting orange blossom honey.
Honey season was pretty crazy – bees and sticky honey everywhere. Here even in Pasadena our kitchen became a place to extract and harvest the honey. Nothing like angry bees in the kitchen – you get used to it, though.
We still are keeping our ears to the pulse and struggles of the bee population. There has been much change in the bee world. A destructive mite (called “varroa jacobsoni”) is affecting the population of bees. One of the reason it’s sweeping through apiaries is that those breeding bees, as with all “factory animals,” wanted bigger bees. Bigger bees meant more honey production. Well, it worked for awhile, but the bigger bees had bigger abdomens in which the mite could work its way in and destroy entire colonies. The Italian bees used throughout this country are in danger and something needed to be done, so smart folks are turning to a much smaller (“heirloom”) untouched breed from Russia.