A few years ago, John and I had a swarm of bees at our house. It was one of the best experiences I can remember. We had someone from the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association come and knock the bees from our fence into a box, and told us they would be back in the evening to pick them up since they are not as active at that time and safer to transport. Later that same afternoon, before they came to pick them up, I went out and sat on the ground near the box and could hear the bees buzzing away.The smell was wonderfully fragrant and sweet! Since then, I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at beekeeping. I joined the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association and on April 14 the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association held their annual bee work day. On this date people come and pick up bees, talk to other beekeepers and watch demonstrations. When I arrived, the place was busy as a bee hive, so to speak (I just couldn’t resist!). Both sides of the street were filled with cars and I had to walk about 1 block to get to the home where the work day was held.
When I arrived, I noticed the garage was filled with packaged bees.
A package of bees contains some bees – a few pounds of them, along with a queen in a queen cage. The bees are then placed in a hive, a few other tasks are performed that I’m not too sure about, and voila! You have bees.
While walking between the demonstrations, I noticed a swarm of bees on a stake in the ground.
I could see the queen moving around and all the other bees attending her. I asked one of the beekeepers in a bee suit if that was the queen just to make sure. He replied that yes, that was the queen and someone would have a hard time getting the swarm into a box. I took a few pictures and walked over to one of the demonstrations.
One of the beekeepers was showing the different parts of a bee hive. Here she’s holding up a frame.
Later I noticed a crowd around the bees on the stake. One of the experienced beekeepers was trying to get the bees into a box. He had taken a handful of bees and placed them onto his other hand. He was trying to locate the queen, but she had gone into hiding. He was not wearing any gloves or protective clothing. Bees aren’t very aggressive during this time of year. They just want to take care of the queen and make honey.
He kept piling them on with his fingers, and someone else was using a small stick to push them onto his hand.
Eventually, the queen was somewhere on his hand because a large cluster of bees had formed on his hand.
He said we could touch the bees if we wanted to. I reached out to touch them. You could feel them all buzzing. A few of them remained on my hand. I did not get stung. I shook them off and moved onto another demonstration.
Another station had an electric honey extractor. The honey filled frames are placed inside a device that looks kind of like a washing machine. Then it spins around and the honey drips down the sides. There is a spout at the bottom of the spinner and the honey pours out into a large bucket.
All in all it was a fun day. I still need to learn more about getting bees, but heard some good advice. A woman shared what a very experienced beekeeper told her -“You don’t know much about bees, but the bees know exactly what to do. Just let them do what they do.” That might be good advice!