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How I Became a Beekeeper Part 1

I did not, at first, willingly choose to become a beekeeper and a farmer. I was motivated by a story I heard on 60 Minutes on October 8, 2007 about the plight of the honey bees. The story went on to explain how whole honey bee hives are disappearing, flying away, and dying. The phenomenon was labeled as CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder and was a clear and present danger to our food supply. At that time and even up to today nothing has been conclusively linked as a single causality to massive honey bee death. After feeling completely worried and concerned about what this could mean to food prices, food supply, and food security, I was left with a simple, but profound question to answer: If not me then who? In other words, If I did not get involved and take action, who would?

On or about October 9, 2007, I started researching about how to become a honey beekeeper. With the help of a friend, I was pointed towards the San Mateo Bee Guild and the Santa Clara Valley Beekeepers Guild (SCVBG). I signed up for an all-day class and I was off and running; thereafter, I ordered and built my honey bee hives, and placed the empty hives in my backyard. Since it was heading into winter time and honey bee packages, +/- 3 lbs. of worker honey bees and a queen bee, would not be ready to install until March of 2008, I attended beekeeper meetings, read a lot, and studied all things honey bees.

In March 2008, I was blessed with being assigned a mentor from the SCVBG who asked everyone who met him to call him Fuzzy. Fuzzy mentored me through the entire process of ordering, receiving, installing, and checking-in on my growing hives. I say hives because amongst the sage wisdom pieces of advice that Fuzzy gave me was that in light of CCD, I should purchase and install two hives, in that way, if one hive were to fail then I would have at least one surviving hive to pollinate the neighborhood and produce honey. In late 2009, one of my honey bee hives was indeed afflicted with CCD; moreover, it was the weirdest experience as a novice beekeeper up to that point. One day, you look out at a bustling busy honey bee hive and the next morning you look out and there were no honey bees coming into or leaving that same honey bee hive. Fuzzy and I performed a necropsy on the hive and found very few, 10-25 dead bees out of 10’s of thousands, around the exterior of the hive, but nothing else that illustrated or explained the disappearance. CCD had reared its ugly head and stole my bees.

The following year, 2009, I bought another package of honey bees and replaced the hive which did well for about six months. It did so well that I was able to harvest my first honey which was super exciting. I did the hard work of harvesting, extracting, and bottling the honey. When I dipped my fingers into my first jar of sun-warmed honey and tasted it for the first time I swooned and gasped saying, “that is so good, amazing, and sublime.” Fighting to prevent my knees from buckling due to the amazing tropical notes of this delicious elixir washing over my palette, I knew I was completely seduced by the honey bees. In late 2009, CCD struck again wiping out that hive leaving me really dejected and a bit sad, but between being completely seduced by honey bees and too stubborn, I was not about to give up easily. If you do not follow this blog, please do, as the rest of the story will follow soon.

So good, you will want more!

Delicious Local Honey

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2 responses »

  1. I had the opposite experience: I bought a used hive, which had comb from its previous tenants. It was in my yard for a few months, empty, when a swarming hive moved it. I guess that’s where the term, “freebees” comes from. They’ve been there a couple of years now, and I just collected my first honey! Tastes like my yard, or at least the plants in my yard.

    I’m located pretty close to you–near the corner of Camden and Coleman (near the landfill).
    Want to trade some honey?

    -Dave

    Reply
    • Hi Dave:

      That’s brilliant, it’s possible that one of my swarms that got away decided to move into your new/used hive. Yes I do. Please come by over the weekend and we’ll trade and talk honeybee stories.

      Cheers!

      Farmer Donald

      Reply

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