Honey Comb Crunch

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

Standing in the midst of thousands of honeybees, I decided Springfield bee keeper Michael Meyer was right-honeybees had taken a bad rap for stinging wasps and yellow jackets.

Meyer quietly and efficiently worked with over 20 hives as I watched. I was covered head to toe with clothing and a headnet. He had his sleeves rolled up, but was not stung.

Meyer had told me that honeybees were not aggressive. Now, in a circle of hives with hundreds of bees flying in and out of the area, I relaxed a little, realizing these bees were not out for blood. I was trusting at this point but still kept my bare hands jammed in my pockets.

The problem with bees, Meyer said, was if one got tangled in your hair, or you accidentally crushed one. "Here, take this," Meyer said as he laid a bee in my hand. "It's a drone, and it doesn't have a stinger." The bee took several steps across my palm, then launched itself into flight with its stubby wings.

Moments earlier I had seen hundreds of bees massed at the entrance of one of Meyer's hives and realized why people fear honeybees. Most of us can deal with them one at a time, or maybe even two or three at once, but seeing hundreds of them at once-well, it takes your breath away.

Honeybees are not native to the United States. Colonists introduced honeybees from Germany. Bee enthusiasts brought over Italian honeybees in the 1860s, followed by the import of a Caucasian bee. Some of these bees were kept domestically, while others escaped and started feral colonies. Honey from feral hives was highly prized on the American frontier.

Meyer's knowledge of honeybee biology is truly amazing, and he has a vast store of information about the plants-domestic and wild-that bees work for pollen and nectar.

He inspected the boxes at this site on a Conservation Department area, injecting a puff of smoke from a small canister when first opening the boxes. He made decisions based on what he saw-were these bees making honey? Did this hive have a healthy queen? His boxes were set at the back of a field, and you would not even know they were there unless you walked within 100 feet of them.

He moved some of the hanging dividers in the boxes, using some already bearing honey to lure bees in another hive into working the upper portions of the

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