ARTICLE: Close Quarters With Honey Bees
By the way, we have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room.
As conversation-starters go, this is one of our better ones. And it’s true – we do have about 8,000 honey bees in our living room – give or take 1,000. Thankfully they are all very safely contained, with a clear path directly to the out-of-doors.
We started keeping bees in spring 2011. Our interest was partially driven by the plight of the honeybees, and partially by our own curiosity. However, we also wanted to help foster our little homesteady ecosystem. Thanks to my husband’s organic green thumb, we have a number of blueberry, currant, and raspberry bushes around the property, as well as apple trees, plum trees, peach trees, grape vines, hazelnut bushes, asparagus, cherry trees, and a big garden as well. Although the honeybees do not pollinate all of these different species, they do hit some of them – and it’s nice to know that we’re also helping out native wildflowers.
Our bees are and always have been raised treatment-free. They are a more persnickety variety, but this breed is apparently more resistant to varroa mites – one of the many things thought to be contributing to colony collapse – and generally hardier. As much as possible, our hope is to help keep an organic, more natural balance on our property.
Back to the bees in our living room. During the winter, my husband decided to build an observation hive to hang in our living room. This is a glass-walled hive that gives a clear view to 3 frames of bees. I was leery of the idea, but it has proven to be an amazing experience. It has frequently been our go-to evening entertainment. The kids have been deeply intrigued, and love to spend time looking for the queen, seeing what has changed, and telling our guests all about our observation hive.
During their time in our living room, we have watched:
the bees make a new queen
the new queen kill off the 2 dozen or so other potential queens
the colony population triple
Queenie (our pet name for the queen) lay eggs
the drone (male bee) population die out and new ones take their places
new bees eat their way out of their brood cells
bees making honey
bees feeding larvae
and so much more!
The observation hive has been an invaluable tool teaching us how to better care for our bees, and has given our young kids a unique education that they can share with friends and family.