A couple weeks ago I drove up to Rosendale, New York, near New Paltz, to take a beekeeping class given by Chris Harp of Honeybee Lives. It’s a beautiful area of New York, full of pretty little towns where things are actually happening. There are many admirable hippies living up there—not the stupid, pothead hippies who lie around in their own excrement because it’s “natural,” but hard-working hippies who know how to modify their diesel automobiles to run on vegetable oil and then start a bio-diesel co-op to provide their own fuel.
The class was held in the Sustainable Resource Living Center, a hexagonal (!) building with many sustainable features that I can’t remember now, but we had to take off our shoes before we could go in and walk on the floor and the coffee was really good. Chris Harp has been a beekeeper for almost 20 years, and has developed a natural, organic approach based on respect for the social structure and behavior of bees.
Bees are amazing creatures: they can communicate with each other, they can count, they can even recognize human faces. (That last one made me feel kind of sad, until my friend the Dawg Lady pointed out that it doesn’t seem to bother me that I can’t make honey, either.) Here is something Scientists and Experts have recently discovered about bees: “‘Our study demonstrated clear brain proteome differences between honey bee nurse and forager subcastes with distinct social roles,’ the researchers write in the Journal of Proteome Research, a publication of the American Chemical Society.” That’s just something I looked up, though—it wasn’t in the class.
The Honeybee Lives class ran all day, from 10:00 AM to 7:30 PM, and we built a hive, and made a stain out of propolis and everclear, and poked around outside in a hive full of bees—without protective clothing, because if you know what you’re doing, and respect the bees, you don’t need much more than a smoker and a hat. I learned so much about bees. And I loved it.
There were about 25 people, old and young, in the class I took, and most of them said they were there at least partly because they want to help the bees. Honeybees are in trouble, from colony collapse disorder, mites, parasites, and other dangers. Since we’re all gonna starve to death if we don’t have honeybees to pollinate crops, helping the bees seems like a reasonable thing to do. And you don’t need a lot of room, or a big field full of flowers, or anything; bees can live very happily in a hive on a little balcony or on a tiny city patio or on a rooftop, and for most of the year they don’t even need a lot of your time. You could probably have some bees. Think about it.
It’s a little expensive to get started with bees. All the beginner equipment and supplies will cost you around $300, and then after that you’ve got to get your actual bees. The kind I want, a nuc box of local upstate organic “survivor” bees, are gonna cost about $150, and since I’m starting late in the season I might not even be able to get them this year. Given our recent income malfunction, that might be for the best. My plan is to get the stuff and build my hive and also put in some bee-friendly plants this summer, and get on the list for bees for next year.
I never thought I’d look forward to getting hives.
Thanks for reading my blogpost this time, and may God bless, and thank you, God, for honeybees.