I've been a little depressed lately with the state of the world. More than the current politics, it's the destruction of this planet that has me feeling so low. I was thinking the other day that in the span of my lifetime alone (55 years), we have killed off about 60% of the world's wildlife, created zillions of tons of plastics and spread it so that even the smallest of sea creatures show plastic ingestion, sped up global warming, and now the Amazon, producer of 20% of our oxygen, is being wiped out by fires. 

This is a grim beginning to a post, I know. I did get a little bit of sunshine (literally and figuratively) today with a bunch of bees. The decimation of bees is also added to our list of environmental woes and so it was with this in mind that I decided to have a beekeeping experience today. 

There is an Airbnb Experience called Hive to Spoon that takes place in nearby Davis. For about two hours you get some bee education as well as a chance to handle some bees.

The tour takes place at an agro-community in Davis called The Cannery. New housing is being developed in an area that once housed tomato fields and an actual cannery. Some of the land has been preserved for agriculture and education purposes. My friends at The Center for Land Based Learning take care of a portion of it and use it as incubator acreage for newbie or wannabe farmers. 

One of the 'farmers' using the land is Rachel Morrison, our guide for the day. Rachel is the President of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association, a participant in California Master Beekeeper Program, and the founder of The Beecharmers. Her love of bees started years ago in Alabama and now she manages several hives in the Sacramento area and shares her love of bees through education for adults and children.

We start off by a native bee house. It turns out that there are about 1,600 native bees in California but the honeybees that we all think of for pollinating our agriculture were actually brought over from Europe. Honeybees live in colonies in hives, but native bees most often live solitary lives in holes in the ground, trees, or other habitats.

The native bee house has different sized bamboo tubes for the variety of bees. The female bee will enter it, lay an egg with some nourishment for the hatching larva, seal a wall, and then do another chamber. Here, at the bottom, you can see some sealed bee tubes. By the way, they sell houses at Costco and Target. Just be aware that the ones shown here are not ideal. Rachel says they need a bit of overhang on the roofs to provide a bit of shade.

We continue through the garden area where Rachel points out a couple of bee varieties. Some are tiny and mistaken as flies. She's given us bee guns, which are actually small vacuum guns that can suck up a bee into a chamber so you can look at it up close safely.

Eventually it is time to suit up in full beekeeping gear. It's a hot day and I am thankful that the hives are in a shady area.

Rachel explains the makeup of the hive - how it is organized internally. The nursery section is in the core of the hive and honey will be stored at the outer edges of the hive. She carefully pulls out sections of a hive and passes it around so that we can examine the different areas and the bees in action. The bees are oblivious to us and don't seem to care that we are messing with their home.

Above are some newly laid eggs in a new section of the nursery.

This section is a well established section of the breeding area. You can see the filled cells that have growing larva and food for them.

This section shows how the center has the breeding cells but the outer corner has honey cells.

This slat is from a more established hive and is completely used for honey production. The honey is what will sustain the bees over the winter. It is the beekeeper's responsibility to only take some of the honey from a hive and leave enough for the bees to make it through the winter. When harvesting, Rachel will scrape off the surface membrane and shake the honey out with a centrifuge. Then she will replace the empty combs back into the hive so the bees can refill them. She scrapes a tiny section to expose the honey underneath and show us how the bees immediately rush in to repair the seal.

We weren't able to find a queen bee today, but she did notice a couple of drone bees. They have bigger eyes than worker bees. Their sole purpose is to fly off and find a queen somewhere that they can mate with. Note the comb of darker honey underneath the bees. A hive could have different color honey as the available flowers in the area change during the season.

After our hive experience we sat down for a light snack of honey, almonds, and fruit and some cold water to re-hydrate. The two hours had flown by. There was a lot of information that was shared that I won't even try to cover in a post. After all, it's more fun if you go to do a Hive to Spoon experience of your own.