Trials BEEfitting an Amateur Beekeeper

There are a number of beehives at Savannah Bee Company. Most of these are employee hives that are used primarily for tours and education. SBC works with local schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops and tourists from out of town. We try to provide people with an understanding of why beekeeping is important, agriculturally as well as environmentally. When I started working here, I knew very little about bees. I, like many of the people that come to our tours, could name very few common traits for honeybees. Of the limited knowledge I had, the fact that honeybees will occasionally sting you was the most important in my mind. I had heard exaggerated tales from friends about painful and sometimes life threatening bee stings. Yet I had no personal experience with bees or bee stings. That all changed my first day.

When I got to work in the morning, the observation hive in the Showroom was swarming. Swarming is the natural way that honey bees reproduce colonies. The queen will leave the hive with about 60% of the workers to find a new site for their colony. They will gather in a large group, generally on a tree or fencepost, while they wait for the scout bees to find a suitable home. Many people are afraid when they see this process, but usually the honey bees tend to be very docile while swarming. This is because of the lack of brood (unborn bees) to defend and the preoccupation with finding a new home. In any case it is always fun to see. When news of the swarm reached me, I was at the back of the warehouse and I chose to jog through our bee garden to get to where I was told the bees were swarming. This was my first mistake.

Usually I work at about half speed when I’m taking people on tours in the garden. I try to be careful and respectful with the ladies so as not to disturb them too much. Jogging through a garden with 15 hives in it is obviously not the smartest thing to do on a Monday morning. I got stung twice on my ear and twice on my neck that morning. I suppose it can be viewed as an occupational hazard when you work with bees, but that was my first time ever getting stung. Before the day was over I looked absolutely absurd. My ear was about three times larger than normal (and I already have weird looking ears). My first day at Savannah Bee Company was less about honey and more about explaining to everyone why my face looked ridiculous.

The reason I bring all this up in the first place is that it happened again. On my one year anniversary at the Bee Company I was stung twice on the same ear. It looked exactly the same and got the same reaction from my co-workers. A fitting end to a year at a honey company. It seems that the bees have a sense of humor.

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