getting buzzed at Round Rock Honey

it's like I'm part of the family!

I've always been interested in learning more about beekeeping and I already had a hankering to take the class offered by Round Rock Honey.  So when I saw the deal pop up on Living Social while I also happened to be in the midst of writing an article on a bee-related article for the next issue of Citygram, the circumstances were just too perfect.  Let it bee!

Carson made me lunch for the day with this cute note on the bag :)

a 10 frame Langstroth box

We started off inside with a class on bee basics before suiting up.  Round Rock Honey manager and beekeeper Liona and bee rescue specialist Ailon began by speaking a bit about the much-debated phenomenon of Colony Collapse before going over the fascinating roles of the bees, the benefits of the bees themselves as well as their honey/royal jelly/propolis, some of the basic types of hives that exist, materials needed to get started (both practically and by Texas law, which requires a hive with removable frames and a water source within 40 feet)...and much, much more.  I already had about a million questions.  I took notes feverishly on my iPhone and asked as many questions as I felt would be appropriate... 

Ailon smokes the brood box, which calms the bees by masking their alarm pheromones

Next, we got into our space-like suits, with veiled hats,long gloves to cover the sleeves and pant legs tucked into boots.  We drove in a caravan down the road to the property where Round Rock Honey keeps their hives.  It made a lot more sense to see the hive in action.  The bottom box is called the brood box, and that is where the queen lays her worker bee eggs.  There is also pollen and honey in the brood box but the honey is only collected from the boxes on top, which are the honey supers (the honey in the brood boxes must be left for the bees).  A queen extruder may be placed between the brood box and the honey super to keep the queen from moving into the top.
a frame filled with brood and honeycomb

Something to note: surrounded by all these bees, I somehow felt very calm.  I noticed that some people in the group were skittish, despite our protective safety gear.  But their buzzing in unison was almost meditative to me in some strange way.  I thought this was interesting because Ailon, who is trained as a composer, said, "I think it's actually a genetic evolution-- that their buzz is such a way that it immediately makes our fight or flight instinct kick in.  Immediately, it's the octave and the vibration of their sound.  And I think that's actually something they developed as a defense over the years."  Maybe I was a bee in a past life?

Ailon explains how the honey is extracted from the frames and spun in a special machine in order to protect the honeycomb

I left with a much better understanding of beekeeping (and some good info for my article!), but was well aware I'd just barely scraped the surface of the whole thing.  According to Liona, "Beekeeping is an art and a science.  As many beekeepers as you'll meet, there are that many ways to keep bees."  I believe it and I could even tell from Liona and Ailon's contrasting personalities that they probably keep bees in very different ways.  I would love to eventually meet Konrad and Elizabeth Bouffard, the owners of Round Rock Honey (pictured in the family portrait above)!

those are some busy bees!

I've always known that local honey is supposed to help with seasonal allergies, by giving the body some immunity to them (almost the way a flu shot works).  However, I never consume it regularly enough to notice the effects.  But the way my allergies have been this year, I think it's time to start!

I couldn't leave without some honey!

That's all I will say on beekeeping for now, but look forward to my upcoming article in the July issue of Citygram!  

After I was out of the bee suit (phew, it really heats up in there!), I headed home to work in my garden.. which felt like a refrigerated walk-in at that point!  With all the rain we'd been getting, the veggies were looking great, but a bunch of weeds had popped up as well.  Nothing some elbow grease and a little Fela Kuti can't fix!  Here are some luscious green scenes...

I spy with my little eye: a snail sliding up the beet greens!

red hot serrano

wine jug tomatoes

even the cacti are all abloom!

...and every day the compost is looking a little more like compost.. :)