Written by: Desi Palumbo
How did you develop an interest in this? Why bees?
What did you have to do to prepare? Tell us about your training, equipment needed, etc.
Mary’s first step was to sit in on a meeting of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association to hear about their organization to gain an understanding of what was involved in becoming a beekeeper. Following that meeting, Mary decided to take a Basics of Keeping class which met every Saturday in Millville, NJ for 6 weeks. In addition to the class, Mary became a member of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association.
The total cost to get started was about $500 for equipment: 2 hives, a smoker, hive tools, a helmet & veil, a feeder, and the bees—a queen bee and the worker bees.
Tell us about bees.
Honey bee colonies have one queen bee per hive whose only job is to lay eggs. The queen bee mates very early in life and will store millions of sperm cells in her body during mating season which allows her to lay up to 2,000 fertilized eggs per day. Typically, queen bees live between two and three years but, in some cases, can live up to five years.
Living in the colony, you’ll also find worker bees which are entirely female but are unable to produce fertilized eggs. The worker bees’ sole purpose in life is to take care of the queen bee and the hive. Their average life span is approximately six weeks; they literally work themselves to death.
And finally, within the colony are also the drone bees which have the job is to mate with and fertilize the new queen bees. Drones mate outside of the hive—usually midair—and die soon after mating.
What do you hope to make of this new “beekeeping venture”?
What do you want people to know about bees’ impact on the environment and why they are so important?
Mary says that when talking to people about bees, they are usually concerned with getting stung or feel as if the bees are a nuisance.
What most people do not realize is that:
- Without the honey bees pollinating our food source, the impact on our daily lives would be disastrous. Imagine a world without apples, blueberries, peaches, almonds, avocados just to name a few.
- No pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving?! That will get people’s attention.
- We are losing bees at an alarming rate. Some of the possible reasons for the dwindling bee population include the loss of flower meadows, the crab-like varroa mite that feast on the blood of bees, climate change, and mostly because of the extensive use of herbicides that kill off flowering plants among crops and in ditches, roadsides, and lawns.
Some ways that we can help to combat the decline of the bee population are to:
- Buy Organic. Buying organic fruits and vegetables keeps more pesticides from being introduced into the environment and helps to encourage more sustainable farming practices that are beneficial to bees.
- Buy Local. Shop at farmers markets or small scale farms.
- Become a Beekeeper. It is messy and sticky but very doable. Classes give you all the information and tools you will need to become a beekeeper. The community of beekeepers are a welcoming and helpful bunch!
- Think of Bees when Planting Your Garden. If you don't know what to plant in your garden, think of planting flowering plants which will provide food and habitat for honey bees.
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