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Dwindling numbers inspire beekeeping

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In looking back to the days I taught very young elementary students, I remember reading lots of books about the sweet little honeybee.

Some stories were based on whimsical little creatures with beckoning eyes that would quickly dart from one flower’s bloom to another. Still others depicted the worker bee hard at work tending to the queen and managing a host of other responsibilities. “Busy as a bee” never rang so true.

Lately, I have been reading more and more about the problems the honeybee faces. Entire hives have perished, leaving the farmer the tough job of finding bees to help pollinate crops such as apples and pears that depend on the honeybee.

With the perfect place to raise honeybees at the cabin, I have decided this would be the year to start. It didn’t take long, however, to determine raising honeybees is much more complicated than that whimsical little bee that smiled from the pages of a child’s reader.

After talking with a few friends and acquaintances, I was determined to start a bee colony. All I needed to do was to learn just how this fascinating process works.

I was in for quite the surprise when I started reading the “how-to” book on beekeeping. What I found was that there is definitely much more to bees than those charming little insects that can be found in countless coloring books. I never imagined there was so much to learn just to get started.

It didn’t take long to realize a bee’s colony is complex and mysterious. The worker bees clean and feed the queen, gather nectar, pollen, even water. In a short six-week lifetime, a worker bee will gather enough nectar to make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.

The queen also is busy, laying as many as 1,500 eggs in a single day. When she falters, the workers forge ahead to pick out a replacement, and the old queen is forcefully removed from the hive.

Beyond the interest in the colony, I was looking for a way to help the farmers. It is estimated that bees are responsible for the pollination of up to 1/3 of all of the foods we eat. Without them, our food supply would be in danger.

I don’t know if I will be successful at raising honeybees, but I am willing to try.

Beyond an occasional bee sting suffered as a child while running barefoot in the backyard, the honeybee has always represented something good. As I read more about the problems the honeybee faces, it is certainly worth a try to help these busy little creatures out.

A bit of honey in my morning tea sounds pretty good, too.

Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at at Greenwood schools. Send column ideas to newstips@dailyjournal.net.

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