Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bee a Beekeeper

If you are interested in keeping bees, and you live in or near central Maryland, you should consider taking this course. The course is pretty well put together and you are guaranteed to learn a great deal about beekeeping. The course is spread out over the course of a month, with a two and half hour session once a week followed up with a "hands on" class in an apiary (which is a place where bees are kept, derived from the latin bee word "apis".) The environment is informal and there are no tests or anything of that sort.

I have noticed that some other courses around the country are basically set up as a crash course- a one eight hour session. I don't see how anyone could learn anything about an unfamiliar subject in such a manner.

If you can't take the course, but are still interested in learning more about bees, there are plenty of good books that you can check out at the library.

Monday, January 21, 2008

At least they don't produce maggots...

Anyone who is interested enough in bees to read this blog probably knows that honeybees were brought to America from Europe. I was just reminded of a funny term the Native Americans used for honeybees: "white man's flies".

Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Bumblebee Facts

Although it does not directly relate to honeybees, the book I am currently reading is pretty good. It is about bumblebees. More specifically, it is about how bumblebees survive in a world of limited resources. Here is a hint: like the rest of us, they learn to be efficient. I had never heard of this book before I picked it up at Borders in the insect section, but anyone who knows about my other blog might find this sentence from the preface somewhat interesting:

"Ironically, while the work on bumblebees in Bumblebee Economics was used as a scientific justification for capitalism as espoused by political free-market advocates...".

Anyway, here are some interesting things that you might not know about bumblebees, and how the evolutionary strategy of bumblebees differ from honeybees:

1. All female bumblebees, like the queen honeybee, have a stinger that is not barbed. This means they can sting multiple times. (OK, most people learn this when they are 5 years old and barefoot.)

2. Bumblebees do not swarm. They produce multiple queens, who mate in the late summer and then find a place to hibernate underground. In the spring, the queens locate a new nest (usually an abandoned mouse nest) and start a new colony. Initially, the queen does all the work until brood is established, including collection nectar and pollen. As the colony grows, the queen devotes more time to laying eggs. In honeybees, of course, the queen is nothing but an egg layer.

3. Bumblebee queens do not lay eggs in cells of honeycomb. Instead, they basically make a clump on pollen, put it on the floor of the nest, and lay eggs on it. The larvae spins their own cocoons which are later cleaned and reused for storing honey and pollen.

4. Bumblebees are tundra adapted insects. Their evolutionary forefathers were from very cold climates.

5. If the queen dies, the workers will lay eggs which become drones (this can happen with honeybees as well).

Cool stuff.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

All is quiet on New Year's day...

Today, I received a bottle of Barenjager as a gift. It is liqueur made from honey. In German, Barenjager means "bear hunter". The lid to the bottle is shaped like a straw skep, and the picture is of some medieval dude luring a bear into a trap with a bee skep. It tastes pretty good straight up- very sweet and very much like honey. At 70 proof, it is honey with a kick.