Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bee Day

It’s been quite the day – but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Angel Food Ministries

The day started out early. I linked up with my Brother in Christ (BiC) T at just a little after oh-dark-thirty and we drove an hour to a church in another (obviously) town. This church was an Angel Food Ministries distribution center or hub or something – I’m new at this so I don’t have all the terms down pat. Angel Food Ministries is a way to provide an outreach to the community in the form of very inexpensive food. There is a set menu folks sign up for and pay $30 about a month in advance. This $30 buys a lot of good quality food. On the stated day (today) they show up at a local church to pick up this huge box of food. But first T and I had to go to the distribution site, pick it up, and get it back to our church.

When we arrived, there was a semi-truck backed up to the front doors of the church and folks were unloading cases of food with military precision. There were 19 churches involved in this effort. As the cases of oranges came off the truck, the distro hub announcer would call off churches by name and tell them how many sacks of oranges they got. Something like, “First Baptist, 3 cases plus 2 sacks of oranges. Saint Pat’s, 4 cases even of oranges.” Each church would then move their food to their “pile”. Next came carrots, then pancake mix, then frozen things like meatloaf and so on. Once everyone was set and had all their items, church groups loaded their food into their vehicles and then took off to their own church where they would distribute it locally.

When we got back to our church with a van load of chow there were members waiting for us to help us break it down into individual boxes. Each individual who had purchased food would show up in about an hour and we wanted to have their boxes ready to go. If there are a lot of people buying boxes we would just set up an assembly line and as they come by each section, a volunteer puts the appropriate amount of food in their box – a bag of oranges, package of tortillas, four cans of refried beans, a frozen meatloaf and so on. As I said – there was a lot of food for $30.

Bee Day

As soon as the last customer picked up their food and left, T and I were off – to pick up our bees! Years ago my wife and I attended a one day class on bee keeping. We have some books and it is something we always wanted to do but never made the time for. Well T recently took a multi day class and when he told me he was “getting bees” I asked him to order me exactly what he was getting and I’d do it too.

Last week we got our bee hives, supers, smokers, bee hats and veils and assorted other goodies. I had to paint the boxes white and assemble some frames on which the bees will build honey comb. Today we went and picked up our bees. T thought we would each be getting a queen and about 350 bees. Yeah, right. We each ended up with 3,500 bees at least, I’d guess.

Anyway, we drove an hour in a different direction from out church to pick them up from “the Bee Man”. He had quite the operation going at his place today too because today was the day everyone had to come get their bees from him. They came in that little wooden and wire screen box you see up there and it was full – and heavy. The gal at the bee place told me to mix up some syrup of 4 pounds sugar and 2 quarts water to feed the bees. She said, “reach in the box, grab the queen (she was in a separate little box inside the larger one) and hook her box to a frame. Then dump the bees on her and the box. When they don’t all come out (and I kid you not about this part) bang the box on the corner to make them fall out.” T and I discussed this on the way home and I thought this might be a form of “bee keeper humor”. You know – get the new guy. Yeah…

That’s me in the bee get up. You will note that my head net is not tied securely to my body. Why bother – none of the bee guys at the Bee Man’s place were real concerned…

Everything went fine until… I banged the corner of the bee box. I heard a strange angry sound. See, bees buzz right? Well, there is buzzing and there is buzzing. I immediately recalled my buddy Jay telling me a couple years ago that you could hear when the bees are getting angry. He had given me some lessons in bee keeping also and let me help him a bit. Jay was very calm and his bees didn’t get angry. Jay was experienced. Jay didn’t BANG the bee box.

When I smacked the corner of that box the bees went from buzz to BUZZ! They started trying to sting me. No worries – I had “bee gear” on. Do you see those gloves? They are Mechanix gloves. They are mostly not leather. Bees stingers go right through them. I think I remained fairly calm while taking some hits to the hands. Then I noticed something I did not like. No sir, I did not like it at all. There were about 4 bees inside my head net. Be calm Joe. Be calm. I reached in to try and coax a bee out. What was I thinking? That opened the net wider – more bees came in. See, bees don’t like to be alone and they don’t like to see lonely bees – so several others joined their 4 brothers. The ones on my hand were stinging but these guys on my face were not. Okay, I’ll just walk away calmly, take off the head net, let the bees out, they will rejoin their brothers at the hive and …. OUCH! Sting to the chin. OUCH! Sting to the neck.

I am up and moving. Not calmly. I’m glad T took no picture here. I am moving out and I take off the head net. Remember the part about bees liking company? Yeah…

I ran away from the hive thinking they would go back to protect their queen. I really should have known better. When you have the invader (in this case -me) on the run you chase him and keep hitting him – this is basic military strategy. When using this strategy, the former defender, now chaser-attacker (in this case - the bees must be wary of a baited attack. These bees knew I had nothing. Nothing. They were not concerned in the least about any “baited attack”. They chased with merry abandon. They stung me about seven or eight times on my now unprotected head and neck.

After he got done rolling on the ground with laughter (okay he wasn’t rolling, he was very calm and still) Brother T quietly put the feeder tray on the hive, filled it with syrup and place the top on. Then he came to check on me.

Well, we now know I am not allergic to bees!

I guess the deal now is to leave them alone for 3 days and then let the queen out of her little box. I’ll let y’all know if anything exciting or funny happens.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. - Isaiah 7:14 - 15
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at

Prepared Americans for a Strong America


At 20/4/08 11:17, Blogger Joe said...

Ron sent me these comments via email and I think they are worthy of posting:
Hi Joe, sorry to hear about your bad start with bees, I have been takingcare of xxxxx's for several years and have been stung a few times butnever with a package of bees or a swarm. My daughters went to work foran apiary last year they have 1500 hives and you never want to be aroundhis house without a bee suit on, talking to one of them yesterday shesays she has been stung 7-8 times since she started and around 20-40stings through her bee gloves where the stinger breaks off in the skinbut there is no venom, its pretty intense there and once one hive getspissed they all do.I have found that the best way to do package bees (3500 per pound) is toput 4 frames in the hive all to one side and put the queen between themiddle two frames with the bees having access to the screen, then pour afew over the area where she is and then place the box into the emptyspace in the hive hole up, and close up the hive.You can pull the box in a week when you check on the queen and add somemore frames, there shouldn't be any in the box and if there are a fewjust leave it in front of the hive for a few hours.Remember if you get stung there is an scent that is also with thestinger and after you scrap the stinger off with a finger nail or hivetool so as not to inject all of the venom into you, I blow smoke on thespot, even a glove if you notice it and that masks the scent, otherwiselike they say the first sting is the worst, as it attracts more. Shalom.Ron

At 21/4/08 08:37, Blogger zbauer said...

I can second what Ron has said. Not from experience but from what I have read he is spot on. Get the queen into the hive along with a few bees, and set the rest of the bees near the hive. They will move on their own to her.

I read about this very strategy here:

Control the queen and you can control the hive without problems.

At 21/4/08 14:32, Blogger P. Kennedy said...

Some bee sting info: Bee stings can be deadly to allergic persons but, to most they are only an annoyance. Most bees inject peptides which are meant to be (and are) a painful warning to stay away from their hive. The victim should immediately use a credit card or knife to carefully scrape the stinger out of the skin (if it has been left there). Do not use tweezers or try to pinch the stinger out with your fingers as it will force additional venom into your skin. Most bee stings began to itch after the pain subsides. DO NOT SCRATCH as this can lead to secondary infections, possible scarring and also open portals to some very nasty bacteria (MRSA aka flesh eating bacteria). My advice is to use a product called Mitigator Sting & Bite Scrub – it actually removes the toxins or venom. It has baking soda, papain (the active ingredient in meat tenderizer) - to absorb toxins and walnut shell granules to open the pores. Scrubbing with your fingertips substitutes for scratching with your fingernails and since it has no harsh chemicals or foul odors it can be used with children and reapplied as often as needed. The product works great on mosquitoes, fire ants (stops the blistering), ticks and chiggers. It was only sold to the military until recently. You can now find it in stores or on the web at:

At 22/4/08 15:45, Blogger stevem said...

Welcome to a strange and fascinating hobby. The best advice I came across when starting out was to put twice as much smoke on myself as on the bees. Hands especially. +1 on smoking any stings that leave a stinger. (Maybe it's the strain of bees I've got, but half the stings I get are light enough that the barb isn't embedded.) Smoking the hive tool is a good idea too. Also, when you've got a hive open and the hum goes up a notch or two in pitch and volume and things start to get ugly, (you've probably squashed a bee or two,) if you can, close up the hive and give them a few minutes to simmer down. On the bright side, they say beekeepers don't get arthritis, so every sting can be viewed as a preventative inoculation. Good luck and best regards, S.

At 16/5/08 19:57, Blogger The Scavenger said...

Hey Joe, You are right. Angel Food Ministires is a great thing for all involved. We started buying from them last month and could not belive the amount of food we got. I highly recommed it to everyone. Just check their web site for the menu.
I'm glad to see that you have bees now. I would love to have them again and maybe I can next year. Those things are one of the most interesting creatures alive.
P.S. I really enjoy the Bible verses you use on your posts.


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