The MOTHER EARTH NEWS office was all abuzz this morning — literally — with four packages of freshly delivered honeybees. The agitated buzzing of about 40,000 securely boxed bees attracted many visitors from other departments around the building.
Cheryl Long, our Editor-in-Chief, fed the bees, spreading the food with a spoon onto the mesh exterior. The bees immediately made their way to the food, and we watched their tongues lick it up almost as fast as she could deliver the spoonfuls of sweet goodness. After the feeding, the buzzing became distinctly calmer, the sound reflective of their satisfied bellies. Soon after, two of the packages were loaded up to be delivered to their future home in Cheryl's garden.
Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief of our sister publication GRIT Magazine, suited up to install the bees in their hives. While it looks like he's in a hazmat suit or getting ready to travel to another planet, some say the color of the protective suit is white in order to keep bees from thinking there is a bear nearby.
Before installation into this topbar hive, the bees were smoked; the smoke works to calm the bees. Have you noticed a trend? A lot of beekeeping seems to be based on how to keep the bees from freaking out and stinging you — especially important as you prepare to release thousands of bees all at once, while simultanesouly freeing their queen. Makes the suit look pretty good, doesn't it?
Look at the bees climbing on him: The bees became active as he shook them free from their packages, getting ready to settle into their brand new hive box. All of the bees in the package are worker bees — sexually stunted female bees whose sole purpose in life is to collect pollen and make honey: in short, work.
Last but not least, the lady of the hive, called the queen bee, was released from her special container within the package. She is the only fully sexually developed bee in the hive, responsible for the hive's procreation for her three-to five-year lifespan. Harsh tidbit: After the male (drone) bees have served their duty with the queen through the summer, the worker bees brutally massacre all of the drones in the hive, as they are purposeless in the winter. I guess that's one way to demonstrate Girl Power.
Thank you to all the donations we received to undertake this project. The participation of our team in beekeeping was made possible by generous donations from the following companies:
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Mann Lake LTD
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.