My sisters and I have been watching a BBC TV series called Lark Rise to Candleford. One of the characters is “Queenie” the village beekeeper and honey mead maker. I find skeps a rather fascinating part of beekeeping history. Bees and beekeeping have certainly changed over the years.
In the apiary, queens rule. The queen bee determines the whole chemistry, demeanor and health of the hive. Re-queening is necessary for those city beekeepers who capture feral swarms. Putting in a friendly, docile queen ensures the “quieter” temperament of the colony which means they easier to work with and manage in an urban environment. I have found that many feral bees, after a few seasons, tend to get more aggressive. More often than not, they will breed mean queens. They usually make ‘hot’ bees that boil over when anyone opens up the hive and these hives tend to swarm more often. So, I opt to purchase a naturally mated queens from reliable sources. In a few weeks, the beehives are calmer, easier to manage, swarm less, and friendlier. This means I can work the hives in shorts, sandals and gloveless without being stung.
I’m trying a few new different things this year (obviously, last year didn’t work out – though I suspect no fault of ours), and we’ll see how it goes. It helps tremendously that I’ve grown up around bees my whole life and to me, beekeeping is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I can do. It’s addicting and the end results are, well, SWEET!
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