Happy Bees are Nice Bees

Local Beekeepers: 'Happy Bees are Nice Bees'
 

  • By JOSETTE KEELOR The Winchester Star - 10/6/2020

As area beekeepers get ready to secure their hives for the
winter, Frederick County resident Tim Riggleman said education is key to keeping honey bees safe and healthy.

Now in his second year of beekeeping, Riggleman said it’s important to find good sources of information on the process, such as from experts and other local beekeepers.

“Education is first and foremost in my opinion,” he said.

Riggleman admittedly is an unlikely recruit to the Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah.

Thirty-five years ago at a family reunion, he was attacked by yellow jackets when a ball he was chasing fell into a nest. At the Emergency Room, he recalled the doctor telling his staff to count the number of stings.

“The nurse at one point said, ‘Can we stop?’ And he said, ‘What are we up to?’ and they said 200.”

Three decades later, when thinking about becoming a beekeeper, he understandably had reservations.

“I was a little skittish to think about doing this,” he said.

After talking with fellow Frederick County beekeeper Doug Koch, Riggleman said he took the chance.

“People are scared to death of bees,” Riggleman said. “I understand; they sting, they hurt. Some people are allergic, severely allergic. But the honeybee is not like a yellowjacket, a wasp or a hornet. They’re pretty docile. … They don’t come flying out to attack you.”

In the last two years, he said, he’s been stung about six times, and every time he figures it was his fault.

I moved too fast, I pinched one,” he said.

Koch agreed: “They’re not going to bother you if one’s just flying around you.”

Bees are very particular to temperature and weather, Koch said.

“They don’t like wind, they don’t like rain. They’re kind of fair weather,” he said.

During the warmer months, they collect pollen and nectar from flowers to feed their colony. As the food is passed from bee to bee, they produce honey, which is stored in the hive to use as needed. If the hive doesn’t have enough honey during dry or cold months, the bees can starve.

As beekeepers harvest honey from the hives, they’ll leave enough for the bees to use during the winter, sometimes adding more depending on how the hive is faring.

The importance of honey bees is unparalleled, Koch said. Not only do they pollinate flowers as they fly from one to another collecting food, but their numbers are essential to keep hives healthy.

“One honeybee will only produce 1/12 of a teaspoon [of honey] in its lifetime,” Koch said. “Twelve bees equals a teaspoon of honey.”

Bees are essential to pollinating other plants and keeping most crops growing.

Many beekeepers harvest enough honey to give extra jars as gifts or sell them to local farm markets, and Koch said when it comes to honey sellers, there’s no such thing as too many.

Encouraging others to get in on the game, Riggleman said he’s gotten so used to working with bees, and they’re so accustomed to him, that he often doesn’t even wear his protective glove while in the hives for routine maintenance or to retrieve honey.

“I think they can learn to get to know you; they work from pheromone scents. I think that they know me, and I talk to them all the time.”

On a recent overcast day following several days of rain, he said his bees weren’t their usual happy selves.

Looking in the third hive, “I got lit up twice,” he said. “You could just tell their temperament.”

For more information, visit http://www.valleybees.online/.

There’s usually 40,000 to 60,000 honey bees at a time in a hive, he said, or maybe fewer during the winter.

The website sciencing.com gives details into the life of honey bees at sciencing.com/life-span-honey-bee-6573678.html

A bee colony is an extremely organized, sophisticated society made up of three castes or categories, the website states – a single fertile queen bee, hundreds of male drone bees and thousands of sterile female worker bees.

“A bee’s caste, as well as the time of year in which it was born, affects its lifespan. Summer workers have the shortest honey bee lifespan, while the queen bee outlives both other castes,” the website states.

If a hive gets too big, Koch said beekeepers might split it in two, especially if they can bring in or buy another queen bee. If a hive doesn’t have a queen because it died or left with a swarm (a large part of the colony), the colony can make another queen from one of the larvae while feeding it a honey bee secretion called royal jelly.

Swarms are more common during the spring, he said, though he recently responded to a call about a swarm in downtown Winchester.

Riggleman said he built up his hives from two to five colonies early this season after receiving some phone calls about swarms around the area.

The Beekeepers of the Northern Shenandoah has about 200 members, Koch said, but it’s always looking for more.

Bees are essential to pollinating other plants and keeping most crops growing.

Many beekeepers harvest enough honey to give extra jars as gifts or sell them to local farm markets, and Koch said when it comes to honey sellers, there’s no such thing as too many.

Encouraging others to get in on the game, Riggleman said he’s gotten so used to working with bees, and they’re so accustomed to him, that he often doesn’t even wear his protective glove while in the hives for routine maintenance or to retrieve honey.

“I think they can learn to get to know you; they work from pheromone scents. I think that they know me, and I talk to them all the time.”

On a recent overcast day following several days of rain, he said his bees weren’t their usual happy selves.

Looking in the third hive, “I got lit up twice,” he said. “You could just tell their temperament.”

For more information, visit http://www.valleybees.online/.

 

(Thanks to Doug Koch and Tim Riggleman for their great work in representing the club)