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MJ Wixsom: School talk is the bee’s knees

You should have joined us for the Boyd County Beekeeping School for Beginners and Intermediate Beekeepers. This project was put on by The Northeast Kentucky Beekeepers at the Boyd County Fairgrounds.

Why do bees get married? Because they found their honey!

Registration began at 8 a.m., but I was still checking animals and leaving instructions for the morning. I arrived just as the activities bee-ginned at 9 a.m.
Wade Stiltner, a West Virginia Apiary inspector was the first speaker. He spoke about how to get started with bees or Bees for NewBees (newbies).

To bee or not to bee, that is the question!

A couple of books will get you started.

One should bee “Beekeeping For Dummies,” which despite the title, is a really good overview of everything. A second book can go more in depth on the type of beekeeping you want to do.

Other information can be gotten from bee clubs or bee school like today’s. Best is a successful bee mentor. The internet has lots of information and videos, but bee-careful, not all of it is good.

When a bee is in your hand, what’s in your eye? Beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder.

Next up is the equipment. A bee veil is mandatory.

My daughter got a bee sting between her eyes, but a bee sting in the eye can cause permanent blindness.

A smoker, hive tool and hive boxes are the rest of the mandatory equipment. A common wooden hive might bee a good place to start. Bees do sting when they are upset some more than others, so bee smart and bee careful.

When the bees were finished making their hive they threw a big house swarming party for the rest of the group.

While it would be nice if wild bees would just move into the designed just for them bee hive, it really doesn’t work that way.
Stiltner went through the various sources of bees.

A package of bees is the easiest and cheapest way to get bees. Sold by the pound, a three-pound package includes several thousand bees and a queen. You add the bees to your hive, let them get acclimated to their new queen and a few days later you let the queen out to bee with them.

Who is married to the queen bee? The hub-bee.

Probably a better way is to purchase a small nuc (nucleus) hive. It can be bought from local beekeepers.

A nuc has four or five frames of brood and honey with the few thousand bees and queen. This costs more, but the hive starts producing young bees immediately not in three weeks’ time. Both are ordered in the winter and come in the spring.

Some people are lucky enough to catch a swarm of bees. Although the experienced beekeepers talk about it, I don’t think it is for the faint of heart.

What’s a bee’s blood type? Bee positive!

While keeping your bees alive through the first summer is fun and exciting, the real goal is to keep them alive until the next year when they start producing honey. (Bee productive!)

Kevin Hale, a certified Kentucky queen breeder and owner of Hale’s Honey, was our next speaker. Many things about bee keeping have changed.

Hives must me more actively managed now than they did when there were more natural flowers (weeds) in fence rows, fields and farms and less pesticides and pollutants.

Hale stressed that bees must be inspected every ten days. Brood pattern must be checked, activity monitored and bee hive needs evaluated and met.

An actively managed hive can produce several times the honey than a hive that takes care of itself without much help.
Bee puns really sting.

Both of the morning speakers had so many good things to cover that they went over their time, so my talk was moved back and lunch was moved up.

BarBEEque sandwiches, potato salad and backed BEEns were great. Our bee club knows how to eat!

I was first speaker after lunch.

Normally, this would be the time for a nap, but it was not.

I had not given a true teaching presentation for a few decades.

Although I am speaking again next Saturday afternoon, local clubs are usually much shorter talks and to fewer people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to teach so much that I don’t mind public speaking, but technology had greatly changed and led to a bit of personal anxiety.

Remember, bee puns are good for your health, they give you a dose of Vitamin Bee!

I spoke about bee diseases, parasites and bee health.

How do vets examine bees? Teeny-tiny stethoscopes!

Like other animals, bees must contend with bacterial diseases (American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood), viral diseases (various paralytic viruses and deforming viruses), parasites (varroa, tracheal and other mites; small hive beetles; and, wax moths) and fungi (chalkbrood and nosema fungus).

We discussed the new FDA rules designed to keep antibiotics out of the human food supply (honey).

The bee bank robber would always tell the bank tellers “Your honey or your life.”

Hale returned to talk about honey production.

While a newBEE might be content to keep their bees alive and get some honey for themselves and their friends, Kevin was pushing production through actively managing hives.

The bees went on strike because they wanted more honey and less working flowers.

Mike Crawford, certified Kentucky queen breeder and owner of Crawford’s Bee Farm, was the round up speaker of the day.

Some people will want to keep bees for a nature project.

Some will want honey and others will want to produce bees or queens to sell.

Whatever your goal, it is important to work with a club and mentors to help with advice for your area.

What works well in Florida will not work well in Kentucky in January.

Mike has some tried some innovative materials for hives.

He did note from personal experience that none of the materials were especially bear proof.

I think Mike missed one of the important reasons for keeping bees, they are interesting and fun.

Of course, I think that learning anything worthwhile is fun, but I have enjoyed my bees.

I have even enjoyed researching and preparing for my presentation.

And the bee puns weren’t too shab-bee.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566.