by Dennis Friedel
A lot‘s happened since the last time I sat down to put the Newsy Bee together. Probably the most interesting is that my buddy Kenna Nethken, who owns and operates Cut 'Em Up Tree Care in Seaford, brought me another tree hive and stood it up on the side lot, near the one he brought me last year about this same time.
If you‘re wondering what a tree hive is, there‘s some pictures here. It‘s exactly what it sounds like — a section of a tree with honey bees inside it. Now, one important thing to remember when you receive a gift such as this is that it‘s illegal to keep a tree hive unless you attempt to eventually house the bees in a conventional hive box, where they can be inspected like any other hive. The best way to do that is to secure a hive box with a hole in the bottom board on top of the tree, making sure the bees have a passage from the tree upwards into the box, which needs to hold conventional frames and foundation.
Provided you remember that bees always move up, they‘ll eventually take up residence in the box, where you can manage them better (and keep the state apiary inspector happy).
When people visit the apiary, the tree hives are a great conversation piece and a living example of how bees live in the wild. In one of the photos, you‘ll notice my observation chair next to the hive. I love just sitting there; relaxing and watching the bees go about their business. You can tell which way they‘re flying as well as what they‘re bringing into the hive. I was watching them a couple of days after the hive was delivered and noticed a squadron of five taking off for somewhere, flying high and in a formation not unlike a fighter squadron. The leader, I‘m guessing, must have been a pretty convincing dancer, leading the rest to a treasure trove of nectar or pollen.
Since Kenna delivered the first hive in July ‘08, the bees in that tree have begun guarding the upstairs box, although they‘re not yet filling it. But that‘s a good sign they intend on moving there, hopefully by next year. When that happens, I plan to split the tree in half, revealing the comb and donate it to the Dept. of Agriculture so visitors can see how bees build their nests in the wild. Perhaps it‘ll become part of our State Fair exhibit.
In any event, probably the most important thing is that there are others out there who care about our native bees and their habitat. "I just can‘t kill honey bees," Kenna told me and I commend him for that. Most tree companies would destroy the hive, rather than go to the trouble of taking it to someone who can care for them.
Also on my "A" list is the homeowner, Sharlana Edgehill, who lives near Kenna and on whose property the bee tree was present. She called me the day the hive was delivered, wanting to know if her bees were okay. ―I just want to know that my bees will be taken care of,‖ she told me. I assured her they would and explained that they were better off in the hands of a beekeeper and had a greater chance of survival when they moved into the box. She thanked me and I told her she was welcome to stop by anytime and check on her bees.
At a time when native bee populations are decreasing, it‘s great to see and speak with people who are concerned with their welfare — and there seems to be a surprising amount of concern out there. That‘s one of the reasons I wear my trademark straw hat. It has an "Apiarist" pin attached to it as well as a bee pin which people have noticed at the bank, grocery store, Best Buy and a host of other places where I go. The question always comes up, "You keep bees?" and thus begins a conversation about the welfare of the bees and what we do as beekeepers to insure their survival. When they say, "There‘s not enough bees, they‘re disap-pearing," I tell them the bees are fine, there‘s just too many people and we not only have to look at the long-term effects of overdevelopment but the application of pesticides and other chemicals which may be the root cause of CCD.
It‘s my belief that bees are similar to canaries — they‘re a direct indicator of the health of our environment. Without them, we‘re doomed. However, if we take the time to learn about them, monitor their health and find out what‘s causing massive colony collapse, and take safe, corrective measures, then we can reverse this trend and make our world -- and the bee‘s world a better place for all.
Having said all that, there were a couple of other notable events deserving mention.
Our Sussex County VP Paula Dardaris held a "blessing of the bees" (see front cover) in August on her farm near Hollymount that was truly inspirational. Complete with a buffet loaded with Greek food, Fr. Boniface Black offered a prayer for the bees and paid tribute to St. Ambrose, the patron saint of bees. A great time was had by all.
It reminded me that we, as beekeepers, are stewards of these humble creatures who bestow upon us their bounty of honey.
Add to that Ron Quillen‘s demonstration of honey extraction at the Sept. 1 Sussex meeting, and I couldn‘t help but think how lucky we are to participate in this endeavor.
All of us play a part in apiculture, whether it be for the honey we produce, the crops we pollinate or the sheer joy we experience working with our colonies.
Passing on this knowledge and recruiting new beekeepers and working with and mentor-ing them is also our responsi-bility. It‘s a tradition which goes back thousand of years and I‘m glad to be part of it. Thanks to all.