Who’s the Bee Lady?

Welcome to my blog. I use this as a space for my personal postings about beekeeping, knitting, cooking, baking, traveling, reading, writing, and other ventures. I also have a blog about my experience as an educator — http://www.kowalogy.com. Check it out if you’re interested in that sort of yarn.

My husband and I are beekeepers. We have gone from having one hive in 2007 to five hives in 2010 and we are planning on expanding more this season. We love our ladies more than we can express. We worry about them constantly and have to remind myself that I am looking at millions of years of evolution refined to an art — these girls know what they’re doing.

For anyone toying with the idea of getting at least one hive, I highly recommend it. My neighbors love the fact that we have a hive and are eager to watch and witness all the work we do. And no doubt if you look around your community you’ll find a surprisingly large and immensely supportive beekeeping community to help you along your way.

I’m also an educator (I’ve taught for 10 years, everything from middle school to graduate school), and am currently working on my dissertation in curriculum & instruction. I currently teach composition at the college level. I was also a journalist for 12 years, working in New York City for Reuters, as a reporter, and for The Associated Press, as national photo editor.

If you would like to contact me you can send me an email at: monicamkowal[at]gmail[dot]com. I look forward to hearing from you.

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4 thoughts on “Who’s the Bee Lady?

  1. Hi There-
    I hope you check your blog messages often. I am leaving this message 1/29/2012.
    As of late (approx one month now) we have had many bees occupying our bird bath.
    We live in Phoenix AZ. Have a relatively small backyard with two large trees, grass backing up to a high school. I have no fear of bees. Have never been stung. I can stand next to the birdbath with no problems. My Hubby on the other hand, not so crazy about the bees. He would rather empty it and have the bees move on. But, for some reason I am concerned with their behavior. At times I have observed hundreds of bees filing up with water. So heavy they can hardly fly. I notice they take the same flight path away to a nearby hive, though I have not seen the hive, yet

    I have never seen this behavior before. Ever. Recently a news story said a group of kids here in Phoenix were stung after messing with swarm near a water main cover.
    This makes me think the bees are seeing water wherever they can. I have read about
    CCD and wondering if this could be a cause?

    What should I do? What is the cause of this?

    I welcome your insights eagerly.

    Thank you,

    Jeanie
    Concerned Bee Lover in Phoenix

    • Hi Jeanie — Thanks so much for your post. I thought I’d email you directly, then post my response publicly later on.

      You are correct in assuming that the bees are likely foraging water from various sources. Bees love water and they will get it wherever they can — swimming pools, fountains, water spigots, bird feeders, a glass on a table. Honey is something like 20 percent H2O and is essential in the fermentation process that makes honey, well, honey. In hot dry environments like New Mexico and Arizona, bees need more water to aid in the honey-making process.

      In short, the behavior you are witnessing is totally normal and actually a very, very good sign — it means the weather is warm enough and the bees are active gathering water, nectar and pollen to make lots of yummy honey, which they eat (especially after a long winter of rationing their stores from last year, since bees don’t harvest in the winter time) and share with us. Most likely you have a beekeeper in your neighborhood. I would ask around to see if this is the case. If not, then you might be dealing with a feral (natural, wild honey bees) colony that’s probably living in a tree or a hole in someone’s porch. Either way, these bees are not likely to do you or anyone else harm unless they are harmed first. My husband and I have five hives in our backyard. Our bees gather water from one neighbor’s bird bath and another neighbor’s swimming pool. Never have they stung anyone in our immediate vicinity (that we know of).

      As when they are foraging, bees are unlikely to bother you when they’re gathering water. They’re too dutiful in what they are doing to notice you. Bees only attack when their livelihood or colonies are in danger. Those boys who were attacked likely harassed the bees that stung them.

      Although it’s not quite clear what causes CCD, scientists are beginning to develop research that links the phenomenon to common household and commercial-grade pesticides that contain a neurotoxin. The neurotoxin is sprayed on the plants to dissuade pests, but since bees touch those plants they are affected too. The neurotoxin basically makes the bees forget where their colony is, so they never make it back and die in the field. This is why they believe hives just suddenly seem “abandoned.”

      My suggestion would be to leave the bees alone and they will leave you alone. If they are really a nuisance to you, you may need to remove or dry out the bird bath for a while (several weeks) so the bees move on to another water source. Know, however, that if you fill it up again most likely the bees will come back. You could create another less intrusive water source for them (being a bee lover this is what I would do) by getting a shallow dish and filling it with gravel and water and moving it to a location in your yard that’s more secluded and away from the places you use daily.

      You could also contact your local bee association (http://www.azbaca.org/) and ask if they know of a beekeeper in your area. If there is one, go over and bribe them into giving you some honey in exchange for your water! 😉
      Your local association can be a load of help when dealing with beekeepers or feral bees. And if you ever have a swarm (very likely this time of year), don’t panic. Call your association and someone will come and graciously and safely give them a new home.

      I’m not sure if Arizona has Africanized bees (AHB), but you would DEFINITELY know if these bees were Africanized. You would NOT be able to stand next to the bird bath, much less go out in your back yard. So most likely yours are just your average honey bee. Enjoy them and let them pollinate your garden and flowers. If the bees do become overly aggressive to the point where they’re stinging the minute you walk outside, call your local association. They’ll know what to do.

      I hope this helps! Again, it’s a good sign that these bees are gathering water. It’s what they do this time of year to get the honey flowing. Please do not hesitate to email if you have further questions.

      Your Friend in Bee Love,
      Monica

  2. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger Award - Beverly Bees

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