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"Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me everything he knows."
– Al Unser  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 6 June 2018  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  The wonderful world of bees
  By Mark Stoller

   Mark Stoller is a nine-year resident of Colorado. He and his wife, Andra, both U.S. Air Force veterans, moved to Falcon in 2007 and are now raising their three teenage daughters in Latigo. They enjoy their home on the prairie with plenty of room for their six adopted dogs, bagpipes & Celtic Festivals and beekeeping. Mark enjoys the privilege of his wife and daughters being his muse for topics, people to meet and places to investigate.

   Driving to work, I saw a bumper sticker saying, “Give bees a chance,” with a peace symbol next to it. I thought it was a pretty clever play on words. Beekeeping has been a trending hobby the last couple of years. An unfortunate reality is that bee populations are diminishing because of the poisonous neonicotinoids in pesticides used for commercial farming, varroa mites and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder.
   Andra and her brother, Jon, took an interest in beekeeping last year. Andra saw it as a relatively easy hobby with an end product the whole family could enjoy. Andra and Jon attended Bee School hosted by the Pikes Peak Beekeeper Association — two days packed with information about bees, hives and more. Andra recommends anyone interested in beekeeping should contact the PPBA to attend their school, to network and to learn from experienced keepers, and also participants can take advantage of their huge library. The PPBA can be contacted at 719-528-5483.
   During Bee School, they learned a real beekeeper can work a hive with just a hat and face net. Using bare hands, the beekeeper can gently move bees aside while looking for the queen bee. Jon joked he could be that beekeeper, and even massage his bees. As Karma would have it, Jon’s first hive purchase was Italian bees who were nothing short of mean! They always dive bombed his face net and tried to sting him at every turn. On the up side, they are great honey producers.
   There are about 4,000 species of bees in the United States. Andra’s first hive consisted of the western honey bee, known as a Carniolan. The queen seemed to falter this year, and did not produce enough eggs to maintain the hive.
   Andra’s replacement queen is a Canadian hybrid bee known as a Saskatraz. Bees normally live 45 days, and their wings are good for 500 miles before they die. By replacing the queen bee, the entire hive will change species in less than two months.
   The entire hive is an impressive colony of activity and specific roles performed by each bee. The male bees are called drones and only live to procreate with the queen. The female bees are the worker bees who build the comb for the queen to lay eggs, care for the larvae, feed the queen; and go forage for pollen to make the honey. Most interesting is how a worker bee finds new food and comes back to the hive to “teach” the other bees how to fly to the source. The taste of honey will depend entirely on the different flowers and plants from which the bees feed.  
   Generally, in the first year, the focus is keeping the bees alive through the winter. During the cold winter months, the bees will cluster around the queen to provide warmth. The worker bees vibrate their bodies to generate a little over 90 degrees of heat to ensure the queen’s survival. Once the hive is viable, there will be a modest to plentiful harvest of honey in the second and consecutive years.
   Honey not only tastes good, but has many practical uses. It is an effective and natural antimicrobial, which inhibits the growth of certain bacteria, yeast and molds. Research continues on the role of honey in sunscreen products and moisturizers. We use it to effectively treat sunburn. Skin color goes from tomato red to earthen brown overnight.
   Now, when something buzzes by the next time you are outside, try to identify what it is. Wasp? Smash it! Hornet? Smash it! Bee? Nah. Give bees a chance.
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