I’ve been meaning to make this post ages ago, and a lot of it was already written up, but time has a way of creeping up on you. And I forgot about it.
As we are approaching winter, I have done the last bits of preparation for my hive. I’ve fed them a bunch of sugar fondant, made sure that they’re nicely packed etc and had a last inspection to make sure that the queen was still around and there were enough bees about to go into the winter.
In the next few months, I will only open the hive once or twice to give them a mite treatment. Something which is very important for the future of bees. More on this some other time, or maybe in this same post, who knows! I sure don’t…
Ok no that’s a lie, I totally know, I’m not doing it right now.
The girls did a good job, the past few weeks were hotter than they usually are and that gave them more time to bring in more pollen and some nectar, things they will need in order to make it through the winter.
They will bunch up together in a ball, keeping the hive and each other warm and go from frame to frame, feeding on their stores.
And then in spring, it’s time for them to work again! And for me too, since I have decided to add at the very least two extra hives in my little apiary!
Not only that, we’re currently fully preparing to make something extra happen. Mostly because I want it, but also because if it does work, others will be able to enjoy my Boobees too.
What is it that I’m doing you ask? Well as you know in my previous blog post I have a site, one that I still have to translate to Dutch, but beside the fact that people will be able to buy Boobee honey. You’ll also be able to check them out.
I’ll be setting up a stream that will keep an eye on the entrance of the hive.
The main reason for this is because I just enjoy watching them do their thing, going in and out of the hive carrying their pollen and other things is just a very relaxing endeavor.
At the hive itself I have setup two benches on which myself and my family go to sit and just watch the bees from time to time.
With the fact that I sit behind my computer screen a lot I also decided to make it possible for me to watch my Boobees from afar. So soon(ish) there will be live.boobees.be to enjoy.
Something that I’m sure will have people surf to it and them wondering why there’s bees instead of something else. But I kinda look forward to those reactions too. Because deep down, I’m a troll and as an eve player, harvesting salt is a thing we do too.
I don’t think there will be much activity on them during winter, but once spring starts, things should become very interesting.
That is, if the hive survives winter. We will know in a couple of months.
Did you know that when creating honey, bees actually regulate the temperature and humidity in their hive to a certain point so that it’s just perfect for the honey. And that this is one of the reasons why honey can be preserved for basically forever?
If someone told me 10 years ago that I would become a beekeeper I would have smiled and gone “Sure, whatever you say”
But here I am, owning a hive with plans on getting a few more in spring. I never suspected that I’d enjoy it so much, that it would be so relaxing to just watch the girls do their job, coming and going from the hive. And seeing the transformation inside of the hive.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m looking into setting up a live stream on the landing board. Not because I’m thinking “Oh people will want to watch this and maybe sponsor the stream!” No, it’s purely because I want to watch it happen, I want to be able to look at one of my screens and watch the bees go back and forth.
Another added extra to that would be that IF something were to be happening to them, I can see it happen and act accordingly.
I even made a site for these girls, something that’s still a work in progress, but I own a brand name of sorts now. If you’re curious, feel free to go and have a look at the BooBees. Yes, I called them Boo Bees. Partly because I just think the name is funny and technically it’s also true that all the honey you eat, has been made by bees long gone. The site isn’t quite where it needs to be just yet. I’m still testing things and making it better. I’ll also do a dutch part since, you know.. I live in Belgium and most people here talk Dutch as their main language, they know English, but not that well. I also absolutely love our logo.
Right now, Winter is coming. And this means that the girls are getting towards their last days of getting ready for it. This means getting their stores of honey up and preparing winter bees.
Normally most of the worker bees only last for a couple of weeks, the only bee inside the hive that last for longer is the Queen, who can live up to 2 years, longer even in some cases. That is if she’s doing an ok job and the hive doesn’t decide that it’s time for a new Queen. Something I might talk about some other time.
But when winter is around the corner, the queen starts laying a different kind of worker. Namely the winter bee. They live for a couple of months and their job is to make sure the hive stays a nice temperature during the winter and that the queen survives too.
Us beekeepers use this time to feed them if they need it, and make sure to get mite treatment done, since the varroa mite is one of the most important things that we need to handle in our hives.
In my case, they had their varroa treatment around the end of July, so that means I’ll only have to have a look at it in December. But what I am doing now is feeding the girls, and boy are they hungry. When I got the hive, they were using about 6 or 7 frames, I had hoped that in the past two months they would have grown to use a bit more but alas, that did not happen.
In an inspection a couple of weeks ago I had also noticed that only one frame out of the ones they were using was filled with honey, which is not good when winter is almost there. So what did I do? I started feeding them. I gave them a bunch of sugar syrup and the other day I gave them 2.5kg of sugar fondant.
I had hoped that the syrup would be enough and that maybe they wouldn’t want the fondant since they had enough in store, but I was wrong, they’re taking it in too.
Seeing that the girls know best what they might need, I’m just letting them have it all and in a couple of weeks I’ll take the hive apart one last time. At that point I’ll change the current cover board with one that has no hole in it and add some news paper to the top to make sure it’s nicely isolated.
And then it’s mostly hoping that they make it through the winter because there won’t be much I can do to help more.
I like this new hobby I have though, it’s definitely different than what I usually do (gaming) and it’s good for the bees! And let’s be honest, bees are awesome.
Even those among you that might be allergic to them realise that without them, we’d be properly fucked, since without bees to pollinate things, we’d have a lot less food going around.
That reminds me, I wonder if I’m allergic. I have yet to be stung by one in the past few months. I remember having been stung years and years ago when I was a kid. And despite there not being anything wrong at that time, people’s physiology changes as they grow older, so who knows I might react very different to it than when I was a child.
But there’s only one way to find out, and I’m hoping that me getting stung won’t happen for a long time.
Once again it has been a while since I’ve written anything, but I have the perfect excuse! I’ve not thought about writing in a bit.
Why you ask? Well, that’s easy, I’ve been busy. Not just with my new hobby or my gaming, but I’ve been traveling.
The past two years I have spent about 50% of my time in the UK, because my girlfriend lives there and it’s just easier for me to go there and work from home than for her to come over here since she works at a pharmacy and I just need a laptop to do my job.
So since half of August-ish I have been spending my time over there again.
Going there usually starts with me taking a trip with the Eurotunnel, which is nice. I drive over to Calais, get on the train, get off in Folkestone and continue my journey. It costs a bit but that’s mostly because I take the Flexiplus tickets which give me the option to come whenever I want and just get on the next train.
Normally that is, this time around I did a bit of a fuckup and had to take a train later. Although I wouldn’t really call it a fuckup and more of a miscommunication, with customs…
Usually at border control, you show your passport, they have a quick look, you drive forward, the customs officers sometimes flag you to do a quick check and you carry on. This time around there were no customs officers at my lane, so I just went straight for the flexiplus lounge, went to the toilet, got my drinks etc etc and carried on to the train which was leaving in approximately 10 minutes.
While getting into the lane towards the train someone came walking towards me, flagging me down. He told me that I was unable to take the next train and to follow the car in front of me. A car, that had suddenly blocked my passage and I had not even noticed.
As it turns out, the customs agents had waved to me, thought I saw them and ignored them, and that I was trying to get to the UK with some contraband.
Cue me following the car, getting pulled aside in a hangar, answering a bunch of questions and emptying my trunk.
Obviously, there was nothing of note that I took with me because I don’t do illegal stuff (except for speeding from time to time) But here was another new somewhat funny thing that happened to me.
During my times in UK me and my girlfriend decided that we wanted to go to Scotland again. We did it last year in September and absolutely loved it. Seeing that we both had a week off coming up we decided to do it again, but unlike last time, this time we’d do some camping. The nice thing about Scotland is that wild camping is permitted. You basically rock up somewhere, pitch a tent, sleep, and go on about your business.
I’m not that much of a fan of using a tent BUT I thought that maybe we could just sleep in the car. So I bought an inflatable matrass, tested it in the boot of the car et voila, we had a place to sleep!
Getting to Scotland from my girlfriend’s place took us about 6 hours and a bit. We came to Loch Lomond near nightfall and were able to take a few pictures of the Loch before carrying on to the highlands.
I absolutely hate driving at night so at some point when it was quite dark, we decided that we had driven enough and it was time to make camp. I parked somewhere next to the road and we got to setting up the bed.
Waking up to a stunning view of the mountain ranges was amazing and made me smile wide. It was an awesome experience.
In the days after that we parked the car in a bunch of random spots whenever we were tired. We did Glencoe, Skye and a part of the NC500 before heading home again.
I absolutely love Scotland, it’s one of the places that I wouldn’t mind living in. Just get myself a house near a Loch in the highlands and enjoy life. The only issue would probably be shopping. I don’t think we understand how easy it is for us in this day and age with how we have multiple big grocery stores in a 10 mile radius. While driving around the less populated parts of Scotland I realised that we are pampered in that aspect. Although I obviously have no idea if things like Amazon take more than a day or if it’s next day delivery there too. In the end I’m sure there’s plenty of other ways to do your thing.
Having the inflatable bed in the car was nice too, but next time we go, I’m definitely renting a campervan.
The people driving in them and the motorhomes just made me jealous, so much more room to sleep, so much more things they can take with them.
I get why people enjoy the vanlife so much. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the budget to get myself a van like that. So I’ll just have to make do renting one.
It will definitely come in handy when we go to Norway.
Next blog I shall be talking about the bees again.
It’s been almost a month since last I wrote something here.
Mostly because I don’t have much to say but I am also currently working on a few projects, one of which I’m hoping to get finished by the end of this month, or at least by half of October. And obviously it has something to do with the bees!
Next week I’m going to be in Scotland for a couple of days, see the sights, do the NC500, Skye and whatnot. I absolutely love the place. It’s so damn pretty there.
I have not traveled that much of the world just yet and I have places like Iceland and Norway on my bucket list. But if someone were to ask me right now “Where would you live if you had the money to buy your dream house” I would say in the highlands in Scotland.
I’d get myself a nice house near one of the many, many Lochs and just be content.
But alas, I don’t have infinite money so I still have to work. But one can dream.
Gaming wise it’s a bit of a “meh”
I’m currently playing Lost Ark, doing EvE online once or twice a week during fleets and joined the new season of Diablo 3 to have something to do.
I’m quite excited about my bee thing though. Just have to get some more hardware.
For those of you who would like to follow what little I’ve already posted about them and to have a tip of the veil lifted. Go check out Instagram.
Did you know that wasps are basically drug addicts? Their young secrete something that’s quite like sugar for the protein that their workers provide them. Protein that was gotten by going after caterpillars or aphids and whatnot. But by the end of the summer there’s no more larvae to give protein to, no larvae mean no more sugar.
And by then they’re addicted to it, so they’ll be coming for yours. It’s why at this time they’re not that much of a nuisance yet, but they will be. At least if they’re just wasps. Hornets are a whole other story, especially the ones known as Asian hornet.
I’m not sure if you, my dear reader, have an issue with these little fuckers, but here in Belgium it’s gotten so big that they are making the news. These things are an invasive species that arrived here a few years ago and are rapidly expanding. Which is a bad thing for the bees, since they’re one of the main targets of this hornet. And that’s not a good thing since our bees are not used to this predator, they don’t have the experience their Asian cousins have with it, so they don’t stand a chance. I had one hover around my hive the other day, did not enjoy seeing that.
Luckily there are a lot of volunteers trying to find the nests to exterminate them. But there’s almost no stopping. The reason for this is because an Asian hornet makes a primary nest, usually somewhere low to the ground. And once they have enough workers they start on the secondary. A secondary nest can spawn 50 to 500 new queen, who each will make their own nests, and so on and so on.
As you can see, that’s not great. Now, if you were to tell me a few years ago that in the future I would be part of a beekeeping association and be hunting for these hornet nests I’d just find it amusing; “Me a beekeeper? Hah”
And yet here we are, a few weeks into my new hobby and I have to admit that it is a new passion of mine. Who knew that I could enjoy the whole beekeeping process so much. I sure didn’t.
I normally am more of a winter than spring/summer man, but now I just can’t wait for spring. Because that would mean more bees.
And I’m already preparing, I have a lot of plans concerning these little ones, and I’ll be doing my utmost best to help them survive.
And right now, that’s by finding ways to get rid of the Asian hornet. The problem with finding them is that it can take a bit. “Why not just poison the fuck out of them” you ask yourself. Well, I would, but there’s a bio diversity too, if I poison these hornets, I will also be poisoning a bunch of wasps and European hornets, and they are quite important too. Despite us seeing them as pests, they are still an important part of nature, they too are pollinators. Their drug addiction is just annoying by the end of august and beginning of September 😉
In order to find and capture Asian hornets you make a jar add some dry white wine, some beer, some wasp attracting fluid, some sugar, stir add a piece of a mop and boom. You hang it up and wait for them to come. They will fill themselves with the delicious liquid that is almost irresistible for them, go to the nest to deposit it, and come back. So what we do, is we mark them, see how long it takes for them to come back and then we know how close or far the nest is.
The Asian hornet can fly about 40km/h, meaning that’s roughly 600 meter per minute. So if he’s back within a minute, you know the nest is about 300 meters from you as the bird flies.
We had a jar that had 40 seconds, at that point you start searching the trees, or hopefully can follow the flight path. Unfortunately there were houses around.
Luckily though, someone found the nest that we were searching for under the roof tiles. This would be a primary one, a secondary is usually high up in the trees and is quite huge.
But this nest is not the one that’s near my hive, no this one was near my buddy’s hive. Mine has yet to be found.
Despite the fact that I basically only log on to EvE for fleets on a Tuesday and Sunday, I do still play the game. Kind of.
PvP can be expensive, so you need to have somewhat of an income. In the past I used to generate said income by doing market trading, buy low sell even lower. Well, no, I am supposed to sell high but because of how the market works, from time to time you’ll be selling at a loss.
Implants were always good to me though, I was able to station trade them quite well in Jita without having to update my orders all the time and still make a few billion in profit a week.
But I don’t have the patience to play the market games anymore, so nowadays my income comes from the wormhole I live in. And I’m not talking about how I used to go into C5’s with dreads and murdered the hell out of drifters.
No, it’s all about PI baby. Without PI I’d have no income, I would still be able to coast by for a couple of years but as is the case with money in general, so it is with ISK. I really, really don’t like seeing my wallet go down.
My PI brings in a few billion ISK per month, across 3 accounts. And that’s plenty of ISK, seeing that I don’t lose that many ships. I have a bunch of high-priced ships all over the galaxy but the ones I use in the fights we do are quite cheap and yet fun to fly.
Past few weeks we’ve been using Claymores and I’ve been flying links. I trained for them AGES ago but never used them, so it’s nice to do something I actually have skills for.
I do miss flying the more blingy stuff, but this way it gives an easier time for all of those who can’t quite afford it. It’s nice.
I still have about 4 months left before all my accounts expire, I’m not sure if I’ll keep three accounts up, but for now, they’ll be paying for themselves by way of extracting the precious goods from planets.
For those of you who want to try out the wormhole life, feel free to come and say hi. We don’t bite unless you want us to.
Did you know that bees dance in order to communicate where they can find water or good flowers? It’s called the waggle dance.
The other day we went on a search for the queen. As most of you probably know, the queen is at the centre of the colony. No queen, no new bees, no new bees mean nothing will happen, no bees mean sad me.
In general, the queen bee is one of the biggest ones in the colony. She has a larger abdomen; she is surrounded by her workers and she’ll be busy laying. She can lay about 2000 eggs a day when it’s a good day, so she is one busy little bee.
One would think that it’s easy to find the queen. One would be very, very wrong. At least not when you’re new at it and have no idea what you’re doing.
Well, ok no, that’s a lie. I know what I’m doing, I just don’t quite know yet what the correct way to do it is yet. If I didn’t know what I was doing I’d probably feel a lot more stressed when working with these girls but it’s really relaxing, and it’s just fun to watch them at it.
So the other day, before we were going to go out for dinner, my buddy and I decided to look for the queen and mark her. This because that way we’ll have an easier time finding her in the future and in general beekeepers mark their queens to know how old she is.
This would also be the first time I’d open my hive officially. Sure, last week she was opened too to put them in, but this is different. This time it would be the first time opening her up with a purpose, finding the queen.
We started at the back of the hive, these frames had no brood in it but honey and some pollen. Which is good! Means they have a source of food ready for the winter. The next few frames had brood on them, and lots of bees. Seeing that we were basically looking for the biggest of the bunch, it took a bit. Imagine two guys in their beekeeping outfit looking intently at frames. That’s basically what we were doing for a good 20 minutes.
Then came the remark “I think I found her!”
I quickly took out the queen clamp I bought the day before and we got her! Put her in the tube to mark her and boom.
My sister was there to take a few pictures too so she took a picture of our newly marked queen. We were happy and after this could go for dinner.
Were we sure that we had the queen? Not at all, hell in the car we were talking about the fact that we probably marked a normal bee, but if that were to be the case, at least we’ll have had some practise.
During dinner my sister who had stayed at home sent me the same thing we had just been talking about in the car “I don’t think you marked the correct bee”
And then she sent me the photo she took. The photo of the “queen” with the yellow mark on it.
She then sent me the same picture but also circled another bee. I just laughed and showed it to my buddy, who also started laughing.
We had indeed, marked a regular bee.
Normally another buddy of us would have joined us for dinner and we would have hung out for the evening but he ended up not being able to make it so we checked what time sundown was and decided we had a bit of light left over to see if we could find the queen in the last rays of the sun.
We did not!
So, we returned in the morning with one thing on our mind, well two actually. The first one was finding the queen, and the second one was taking something out of the brood box.
See the boxes I bought had this metal strip in the bottom of them to make sure the frames would not move much. This is perfect for when you’re moving your hives, but we noticed in putting the frames back that this was making it super difficult to do it whilst trying not to squish any of the girls.
We first tested our little theory on my spare brood box and then decided to move the frames to the spare, do our little feat of engineering on the other one, and then move the frames back. All the while searching for the queen.
It worked out well, moving the frames to the box without the strip on was a LOT easier to moving them into the one if the strip was on, so after moving most of them and meanwhile looking for the ones with brood on it and new larvae, we spotted what I thought was the queen.
Lo and behold, I was right. I put the tube around her and a few of her friends but due to how heavy these frames are, my buddy lost balance for a second and she was able to escape from the tube again back onto the frame.
No worries, we now know what frame she was on, I quickly changed the rest back over to the normal box and then we searched again.
When I spotted her the second time around, I’m getting better at this, I used the queen clamp, and then from there deposited her in the tube. You have no idea how nerve wrecking it is to have one of the most important bees in your hive in a tube while you’re trying so hard not to squish her in between a frame and a piece of sponge so you can mark her.
I however, now do know what it feels like.
After marking her we deposited her back on the frame. Well, not before I almost dropped her on the ground but I was able to catch her on time in my gloved hand. And then everyone was happy again!
We now have a marked queen, marked in such a way that normally she won’t have any issues with it. So hopefully we did it right and the bees can live happily again.
During this inspection I did decide that I’m going to have to switch out a few frames. The beekeeper I got this colony from had used a few old frames and you can definitely see that they’re old. But no worries, this will just be another new experience.
Did you know that depending on where they get their nectar, the honey will look and taste different?
As I’ve explained in my first post about these wonderful little creatures, it’s only been a few weeks since me and my buddy decided on becoming beekeepers ourselves.
As per usual, my motus operandi doesn’t consist of “Let’s think this through” but more of “Oh yeah cool, let’s go!”
Usually this just means me buying something I don’t really need but just want, because in general I’m too lazy to start new hobbies. But as I said before, I like bees, and here we are.
As I said in my last post, I got myself a Simplex hive. I gave it a nice little ground layer and then painted it blue. Why blue? Well, from what I’ve been told, bees tend to have a very good sense of direction, but colouring their hive actually helps them a bit. Bees can see white, blue and yellow the best. And seeing that I like the colour blue, it was an easy decision to make.
After clearing the land and setting up the hive there was only one more thing to do. And that’s getting the bees there.
Last Monday after I had levelled the hive to my liking, had it in the correct spot and everything, I told the guy who was getting me the bees that everything was ready. At the time I figured that he’d just tell me he’d do it on of the next few days seeing that it was already getting closer to the evening, but no. He sent me the text that he could do it that day and if I could make it between 20:00 and 21:00.
I obviously said yes, because this was what I had been preparing for in the past couple of weeks, to finally have bees!
When the time was nearing 20:00 I took a quick shower, because I had been working up a sweat. And I had read that bees hate smells. They don’t like the smell of sweat, dirt, gasoline etc etc. So best to take a shower as to not aggravate them. Jeans, shirt and shoes on and let’s go! Off to where they shall go.
I arrived right behind him, talk about timing.
The thing I find fun is the fact that hobby beekeepers just tape up a hive and put it in their car. They literally just pick it up and then go to wherever they need to go while they have thousands of bees in the back of their car.
Today was the same, he opened up the back and there was the hive, the little nucleus. 11 frames of bees, buzzing away as they couldn’t leave for now.
We took a wheelbarrow and made our way to the spot. I had put on my gear and my sister, wanting to see this happen too, joined us. She used my phone to make a few recordings from a safe distance.
A safe distance that soon became clear she didn’t really need to keep since the bees are not aggressive creatures at all. They’ll get mad if you steal their honey or provoke them, but in general they are quite docile.
A fun little thing with this is that the beekeeper was wearing gloves, I was not. I have them, but I didn’t use them. At one point one of the frames was unable to correctly go in so I took it upon myself to correct this. While there were a few thousand bees in the box already. But hey, look at me being fearless. Or you know, just mindless since at the time I didn’t even think about it. My thoughts were just “ok this needs to be fixed lets go”
After about half an hour the deal was done, the bees had moved into their new permanent home and I could finally call myself a beekeeper.
In the next few months, I’ll be learning more about them but in general it won’t be that much work. The bees need to be prepared for winter, which I will do by feeding them about 10liter of sugar water in the next couple of months. But other than that, they will be able to go on their buzzy little lives.
I will obviously go and look at them as much as possible, my plan is to open the hive once a week, just to have a little look and become more familiar with everything.
My buddy will be joining me, as he will get his own little colony soon. Well, he already has one, but one of his own, one that we shall be taking care of together.
The only small issue is that he has a Langstroth hive and I have a Belgian Simplex one. The reason why this is an issue is because due to the difference of the hives, it would make it harder on both of us if something goes wrong. New beekeepers are always told to start with at least two hives. The reason for this is that if something goes wrong with one hive, you can always use the other hive to fix things. But since they won’t be doing much now, I should be fine with the one hive.
I already have a plan in the back of my mind to split this hive when the bee season starts next year. And then boom! I’ll have two hives.
My buddy’s hive is a cool one though, it’s called a Flow hive.
For some reason it gets a lot of flack by the beekeeping community, but I think that’s because when it first came on Kickstarter they marketed it in a way that you supposedly put the flow hive in the backyard and you’ll have honey on tap.
And that’s not how it works, you have to take care of your bees or they will die. There are so many threats in this day and age that they need constant care. Mites, pesticides, infections and other insects mean that you can’t just NOT look at your bees.
But the Flow hive is super cool and supposedly makes it super easy to collect your honey. Unfortunately, it’s a Langstroth hive, so his frames will be different than mine. But I’m sure that we’ll figure something out eventually. There’s always a way.
And if I’m going to be honest, if things go well, I might just get one of those myself in a year or two.
But that will only happen if I can keep my current ones alive and get through the first year!
Bees have been kept throughout the centuries. There are cave paintings in Spain out there from thousands of years ago that shows people on a rope trying to get to that sweet sticky stuff we call honey.
It was the ancient Egyptians themselves that were the first to keep bees themselves in a kind of clay hive.
And even Aristotle wrote about them, although he didn’t quite know what he was talking about, parts of what he said were in a sense correct, others not so much.
‘The honeycomb is made from flowers and the materials for the wax they gather from the resinous gum of trees, while honey is distilled from dew and is deposited chiefly at the raisings of the constellations or when a rainbow is in the sky’
Not only that, but according to him bee babies grew on trees. I guess that would make sense if you see a hive in a tree and look at the brood comb hatch. But not quite how it actually works, then again this was written between 344 and 342 BC, so I guess he had a good excuse.
In the late 18th century, a Swiss beekeeper by the name of François Huber made a pioneering work that had taken him over 20 years of observation to make. Helped by his assistant because of his blindness. He established the mating process and the fact that the bees kept a bit of space between their comb in order to make moving around easier. He also produced the “folio” or “leaf” hive, but this was more to make it easier to look at the bees since you couldn’t remove the comb, so there was no way to get the honey.
The person that made beekeeping easier was a priest from Pennsylvania called Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. He calculated the width which bees would need in order to move around easily without filling it all up. If the space was too small, they would fill it with propolis, their way of making insulation. If it was too big, they’d fill it with wax comb.
After he established this, he designed wooden frames that could be removed without breaking up the internal structure, he literally came up with the first moveable beehive. His design, the Langstroth, is to this day still one of the most commonly used hive by beekeepers around the world. There are others of course and I’ll talk about them maybe at some point in time, but this is nice to know.
And now, there’s me, a new beekeeper, a newBEE, someone who knows stuff because he’s read about it and watched a bunch of youtube videos. If the ancient Egyptians, Greek, Romans all did it. Why shouldn’t I, right? Right?!
The hive I picked is similar in design as the Langstroth but due to the fact that here in Belgium and the Netherlands most beekeepers use a slightly different design, I decided to go for a Simplex. This one is based on a hive designed from the 1890s in England that was supposed to be a bit nicer on the bees than a Langstroth. The thing with these is that I honestly can’t really see the difference versus a Langstroth, I think my frames are a bit different? And the size of the brood box and the honey super? If I’m not mistaken it was mostly because it was thicker and therefor a bit more insulated.
But the concept is the same as Langstroth, and at some point, I too will probably go for a Langstroth hive.
But for now, I have a Belgium Simplex one, purely because it would make my life easier in order to get bees in there.
And it was quite easy.
As you may know, dear reader, I have been spending the past few weeks getting ready for the moment of their arrival.
The past Saturday I spent most of my morning putting down the finishing touches, clearing a bunch more brambles and other annoyances.
Yesterday I even set up the hive in the spot where it needed to go.
I’m not the handiest of people when it comes to anything really. So it took me more effort than I am willing to admit to in order to get this setup correctly. Mind you, the hive needs to be level from side to side and a little incline so that water and condensation can get out. Water out from the top, and condensation from inside. So it needed to be, somewhat “perfect”. It doesn’t look it, but it is to me
And because the weather was nice and it was the perfect time for it, got the bees in it too.
But that last bit, is for another post, since I’m rambling on enough as is.
Did you know that bees were around for more than one hundred million years, whereas we as a species (homo sapiens), have only been around for about 100 000 of it?
It is only fair then that the bee has a place in myth too.
In this particular case the Greek myths, as told by Stephen Fry at least. You see dear reader, from time to time I do some reading too, and friends always go on and on about how nice it is to listen to audio-books instead of reading them themselves. Because I’ve been meaning to read the book Mythos, after seeing him do a bit of it on the Graham Norton show. I decided that what better way to start with audio-books, than with Greek creation.
And disappoint it does not, obviously as is the case with many myths, the author has a bit of leeway, and can make their own spin on it. I enjoyed the whole book but since I always liked bees, the one about the bee and her sting was quite nice.
In this particular story, it’s Zeus and Hera’s wedding, a wedding anticipated by all the gods. Other than it being the first wedding in all time, there was also a bit of competition added to it.
Whomever that could come up with the most interesting and original wedding dish, could ask Zeus for a favour, a wish as it were. As things were at the time, everyone was quite excited about this, and thus creatures and gods of all kinds had prepared something for the banquet. There were salty dishes, sweet ones, bitter, sour and savoury. They tasted many dishes until they came across a tiny amphora, a vase as it were, you can think of it as a small as a thimble, made by a creature called Melissa. It was filled all the way to the top with a sticky and sweet-smelling goo, which Zeus thought was pine resin as he stuck his finger in it.
After tasting it Zeus knew that it was nothing like he had ever tasted before. “Something new, gloopy without being unguent, slow-mowing without being stodgy, sweet without being cloying and perfumed with a flavour that drove the senses wild with pleasure.” Melissa’s name for it was Honey.
When Hera took a spoonful and tasted it “it seemed as if the loveliest meadows and mountain herbs danced along the back or her mouth”
Both Hera and Zeus knew at this point that honey took first place.
Melissa went up to Zeus, she was very small but looked even smaller while hovering near Zeus’ head. I’m sure you have your own image of Zeus in mind, mine usually comes with that of the Disney’s Hercules one. So, I just imagine him, with a bee next to his face.
She buzzed to him “Great lord, I am pleased that you like my delicacy. But I must tell you that it is quite extraordinary hard to make. I have to zoom from flower to flower to collect the nectar deep inside. Only the smallest amount can be sucked out and carried. All day, for as long as Ether grants me light to see by, I must sip search and return to the nest. Often traveling huge distances, even then at days end I will only have the tiniest possible amount of nectar to convert, into the confection that has so pleased you. This little amphora took me four and a half weeks to fill, so you can see that this is a most labour-intensive business.
The smell of honey is so intense, so ravishing that many come to raid my nest. They do so with impunity, for I am small, and all I can do is buzz angrily at them.
Imagine, a whole week’s work can be lost with one swipe of a weasel’s paw, or one lick of a bear cubs’ tongue.
Only let me have a weapon, your majesty. You have equipped the scorpion with a deadly sting, and the snake a venomous bite.
Give me, great Zeus, such a weapon, a fatal one! That will kill any who dare to steal my precious stock of honey.”
As is normal in these myths, Zeus obviously did not like this request, he had no patience with self-pity, how dare this tiny creature demand a mortal sting. He decided to show her the folly of such a request. “How dare you demand such monstrous a prize. A talent like yours should be shared out, not jealously hoarded.” Unfortunately for her, Melissa couldn’t keep her mouth shut and expressed her annoyance at him, He had given His word, she was supposed to get whatever she wished for.
At this point dark clouds had gathered and Zeus looked angrily at the small flying creature in front of him, stating that he said they could ASK him a favour, not that he would grant it.
“From this moment forward, the gathering of your honey will be made easier. By my decree you shall not labour alone. You will be queen of a whole colony, a whole swarm of productive subjects. Furthermore, I SHALL grant you a fatal and painful sting.”
At this point Melissa’s wings piqued up perkily “But!” Zeus continued “While it will bring a sharp pain to the one you sting. It is to you and your kind that it will bring death. So let it be!”
At this point the sky cleared up and Melissa felt something within her, looking down she saw something long, thin and sharp pushing its way out of her abdomen. It looked somewhat like a lance, a needle as it were, with barbs on the end of it.
Melissa is even still part of the scientific name for the honey bee ‘Apis mellifera’, in Greek Melissa means bee, which in turn Meli does honey. Here in Belgium, we even used to have a park called “Meli Park” now that will make whomever is from around here feel old because it shut down back in 1999.
A little thing that is “wrong” as it were about this myth though, is that in the way Stephen Fry talks about the myth, Melissa as the queen also got a barbed sting.
But the queen bee as we know them doesn’t actually have a barbed sting. She can sting as many times as she wants, not that she ever does, queens are quite docile. Usually at least. When a virgin queen bee emerges, she goes out to seek out the other virgin queens and tries to kill them by stinging them. When she’s the only one left she’ll mate and begin laying eggs. A mated queen doesn’t usually leave the laying chamber and won’t sting again. I’m sure that there are beekeepers out there that have provoked their queen in such a way to feel the stinger. Or not, I’m not sure, that’s something to look up.
But there we have it dear reader, a bit of myth for you as we go into the weekend.
Today I’m putting the last layer of paint on the hive, so hopefully by the next time I write, I’ll have set it up and have bees in it.
Stay tuned o7
This blog adapts parts of Mythos by Stephen Fry, go grab it, it is well worth your time.