Honey of a job

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring is the time for the birds and the bees to make their way back out into the world after a long, cold winter.

Elizabethton beekeeper Joe Schultz installed a new “package” of bees to his hive Monday. Each package contains 5 pounds, or 3,000 bees, and a queen.

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“Due to a number of factors, either pests, weather or disease, a hive will not make it through the winter,” Schultz said. “I lost my hives last winter, not this winter. You can always wait for a stray swarm to come through and take up in the hive, or you can purchase a new package.”

The bees are installed by emptying the bees into the vacant hive. The queen is kept in a separate cage and fastened between the frame. The queen is kept separate until each hive has become accustomed to her smell.

“If the hives are not used to her smell, they could kill the queen,” Schultz said. “The entrance to the queen’s cage is plugged with a soft candy and it takes about three to five days for the queen and her attendants to eat through the candy. By this time, the queen’s odor will be through the hive and the bees will accept her.”

The queen’s one job in the hive is to lay eggs, which she will do at the rate of around 1,500 eggs a day for five years. After two to three years, her egg laying will slow and she will be replaced by the hive, Schultz said.

Worker bees live about six weeks, and after around three weeks, they begin foraging to bring in nectar and honey and will work themselves to death.

“A single pound of honey will require bees to visit over 2 million flowers and fly the equivalent of two and a half times around the earth,” Schultz said.

Honey will be harvested from the hives for the first time in July.