I am learning things all the time. Some things I decide I want to know more about all on my own. Other things I learn because life decides I should know more. Either way, I do like it. Not always when it is happening, but eventually. I have a vast wealth of minimal knowledge that covers many subjects. I can wear many hats, and I know just enough to be very dangerous. Just ask the Man in Charge. He'll tell you all about it.
In the interest of education, I have decided to broaden my horizons a little more. I have signed up for bee keeping classes. I know some of you are thinking that I have lost it, and should officially be locked away and labeled as a nut case. Have no fear you Negative Nancy's, I have knocked tools off of ladders and been hit in the head by flying objects. Not to mention walking into numerous things and causing great pain to myself. If you read this Blog at all, you know I have lived to tell those stories. What can a little bee sting do to me? The facts are...I love honey. I sell honey. Honey bees pollinate crops. This makes sense to me.
My class consists of one class per month for five months. I will learn the basics of bee keeping from the ground up. Starting with ordering my equipment. Wow! No small investment there. We will assemble and paint our hives, order bees, spend time in the bee yard handling said bees, and upon graduation I will take my hives home with me. Honey is harvested once a year, and we will return to harvest this year's crop some time in July.
I attended my first class on January 21st, and can I just say, it has been a long time since someone handed me a text book. The class was very informative and interesting. I learned more about bees than I thought I would, and am certain that I have only absorbed one small drop in the bucket of what is to come. I took about 20 pages of notes that day, and the first half of our four hour class consisted of introductions and watching a video. I am in no way complaining. If there were any doubts about this new adventure, they are definitely gone now. I am fascinated.
I am going to share a brief bit of my education with you today. I say a brief bit more because the topic that I am going to write about only consists of a brief bit of information. I have to save the more detailed aspects of bee keeping for later. Maybe I will be a little more confident in my own understanding by then.
One of the topics we discussed were the different bees that live and work in a hive. I feel sure you have all heard of the Queen Bee? We will not talk about her today. Too much to still grasp on her. Possibly you have heard of the Worker Bee? Not covering that one either. Even more to still understand on these little working machines. I know I would not do them justice today. What about the Drone Bee? Any of you heard of him? He is something that we can talk about.
The Drone is the male bee.
Pay attention men, you will like his story. Well...most of it.
A typical hive consists of 10-15% Drones. Some of you men out there may feel like these are better than fair odds. I mean, that does leave 85-90% of the population female, right? Not really, but we will get into that more on another day. The Drone is a little chubbier than the others. This must mean that the cooking is good. He also has huge eyes. His eyes are big so he can spot a virgin Queen approaching. He does not have a stinger. This may be good or bad depending upon how you look at it. From a bee's view point it may be bad. He can't defend himself or the hive. Maybe not bad when you realize that a bee that stings, dies. So, this is good, right? Or, is it bad? I'm confused? I just know that he can't sting me, so we will count this as good.
Their lives are pretty peachy, these Drones. They take the longest to hatch out. The first two weeks after hatching, a Drone doesn't leave the hive at all. They just hang around, eating to build up their size and strength. After two weeks, they venture out into the world. Not to collect pollen or nectar or anything else for that matter. Their purpose at this time is to find the local Drone hang-out.
I believe this to be the human equivalent of a sports bar.
About every 5 square miles of land has one Drone hang-out. Drones from all the hives in that five square miles go there. Don't worry. He doesn't get up early and go there to work hard. He leaves the hive at about 10:00 in the morning and then returns about 3:00 in the afternoon.
Pretty cushy if you ask me.
The Drone only has one job in the world. Other than going to the hang-out daily, his single purpose is to mate with a virgin Queen. You see, once a Queen is hatched, she takes a mating flight. This is the only time she leaves the hive.
Guess where she goes?
You guessed it. She heads straight for the Drone hang-out. Unfortunately for the Drones, the Queens only mate one time in their lives. They collect enough sperm to last them a life-time on this one single mating flight. As if that weren't bad enough, once the Drone mates with the Queen, if he happens to be the lucky one at the hang-out that day, he dies.
You may be wondering at this point if it is wise to be spending your life trying to mate with a virgin Queen? It sheds a whole new light upon the activity when you realize it will cost you your life. Well, not to worry. All Drones don't get to experience that. The rest of them continue on their daily ritual of sleeping in and hanging out. Returning to the hive for their afternoon nap and then a nice meal. The maid service in the hive is not too shabby at all. And while this life of luxury may seem like a better plan, there is a down side. At the end of fall, usually around October in these parts, the Worker Bees kick the remaining Drones out of the hive. The Workers aren't interested in feeding a bunch of lazy males all winter. So, they are forced out in the cold and left to die. I am not a guy, so it is hard to put this situation into words. Is this just a sad, sad story? Or, is that not a bad life after all? You will have to decide on your own.
Then, when spring rolls back around, it starts all over again. The Queen Bee is nice enough to start laying unfertilized eggs again. These unfertilized eggs will hatch out into new Drones, and the cycle continues. Probably not the story that you wanted to hear, depending upon who you are. I feel certain that there will be many Honey Bee stories in my future. I just hope none of them involve large doses of Benadryl. You can be sure that I will keep you posted.