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January 25, 2015: Bee Obsessed

About a week ago, I decided to attend a local beekeeping symposium. I figured that this would be a good thing to do because Pete’s been the head beekeeper around here now for about seven years. I figured that if I learned a few thing that I might be able to give him a much-needed assist. Plus, I’ve always wanted to know some about hive order and social structure. Plus, I figured that it would be good for me to attend this event – I’ve been overly obsessed with the horses and needed for a bit to redirect my energies.

So this morning we got up well before daylight – amazing, at 7 a.m. it was still dark and snowing. And off we went, to Eagle River. The symposium was held in an unoccupied plaza building, one with bright white walls and a lowered ceiling and florescent lights. One of the walls had full length glass windows – this enabled me to look out at the snow covered birch, and watch the sky first get lighter and then darker again.

I’d made sure to pack up our lawn chairs – a good thing because otherwise we would have had to stand the entire time.

There were about 75 people present – mainly male, mainly middle aged. Mainly wearing back woods sort of gear. There were more wool sweaters there than I’d seen in several years. Dowdy Alaskan dressers – they were in abundance.

I quickly discovered that this group is an off-shoot of the other group – this group’s focus is on promoting natural methods of bee keeping, one of which is called small cell bee keeping. This is as opposed to large cell bee keeping. This group is advocating that area bee keepers use smaller celled combs, this way the smaller bees will be less susceptible to Verona mite.

Four of the five presenters passed on what they knew in a very informal fashion, so it was very piecemeal. There were no handouts, and no other supplemental material. I told Pete that if woman had been in charge, that there would have been refreshments. There was a beverage – bottled water.

I learned a great deal about bee biology – in particular, the roles of drones, worker bees, and the queen. What I found most interesting is that the queen lays fertilized egg. I also learned a bit more about swarming. We were told that the swarms don’t contain the queen – she stays put in the hive. The bees form the swarms because they are too great in number. If you want the bees to come back to the hive area, you put out a box with a queen in it.

The guys went on and on – I finally picked up a book and began reading it. I highly recommend Jay Smith’s Better Queens.

My interest began wavering shortly after lunch. Admittedly, had this been a horse event, I would have remained rapt. I don’t know why this is. But interestingly enough, there were people attending this event who were as obsessed with bees and bee keeping as I am about horses.

What is it that makes people obsessive? And why are they obsessive about certain things? I wondered that before I left, and I’m still wondering this now.

Next: 26. 1/25/15: The Sky is Falling

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