A Regular Bee Charmer

BeesIt started with a movie – as many things do. In Fried Green Tomatoes, one of the main characters climbs a tree and steals honey from a beehive to give to the person she loves. The object of her affection exclaims, "You’re just a regular bee charmer, Idgy Threadgood!"

I was fascinated by the idea that someone could be a bee charmer - that you could climb a tree and interact with the bees without being stung. And, if I’m perfectly honest, I’ve loved bees since I was a kid. There’s something amazing about them, from the efficiency of the hive to the way they communicate and, of course, the honey.

Over the years, I became more and more interested in beekeeping. I started buying books on the subject and learning about what it takes to maintain a hive and about the bees themselves. I learned that 95 percent of a bee colony is female, that only the queen lays eggs, that the worker bees (all female) do ALL the work (cleaning the hive, making the comb, feeding the babies, making the honey, collecting the pollen, collecting the nectar, etc. etc.) while the lay-about male bees just “service” the queen and keep her clean.

I learned that a bee colony is a collective and all decisions are made as a group. And, maybe the coolest piece of information I learned ... the bees actually have a language.

I was also exposed to the story of “colony collapse”. Colony collapse disorder is a phenomenon where an entire colony of bees will abruptly disappear for no apparent reason. In the U.S. alone, we've lost more than 5 million colonies, which account for nearly half of the country's the bee population.

The decline in the bee population tipped me over the edge. I took a class, joined a beekeeping club, and now…

Alex in her bee suitIn my little backyard, I have a single hive which I started this summer. Because I started late in the year, I bought some already established bees and am working to build a strong, disease-free colony that will survive the winter. Next year, I should be able to harvest honey!

I’m slightly obsessed (that's what summertime passions can do to you). I visit the hive every day, at least once. I stand by the hive and talk to my girls (this is to get them used to having activity around the hive).

Then, once a week, I take the entire hive apart, view each frame, look for the queen, and make sure nothing looks amiss. If I had my way, I’d do this every day, but I’m told it’s too disruptive to the bees.

Bees are quite docile – mainly because they’re all drunk on nectar right now but also -- I like to think -- because I work hard to make sure they’re used to me poking around their home. In the six weeks I've had them, I've been stung once because I stepped on a bee and I wasn’t wearing shoes. I always wear shoes now.

I love my bees. They're infinitely fascinating, and I could spend hours fussing over them. My summer hobby now has me on the road to becoming a "regular bee charmer."

Alex Aulisi blogs about many of her hobbies - including her new passion for bees - at Find more photos of her beekeeping adventures on her personal Flickr page

30 Days of SummerEditor's note: What are your summer hobbies? Share your story in the comments below. Or visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer conversations. You can also check out the #30DaysOfSummer hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

by Alex Aulisi on Fri, Aug 02 2013 9:38 am
Posted by Alex Aulisi on Fri, Aug 02 2013 9:38 am


Debra Hermsmeier said on Aug 05, 2013
Alex, your charm we encounter on a daily basis would of course charm bees. What a sweet hobby. Thanks for drawing us in where we could safely learn more from a distance.
Michele Wingate said on Aug 07, 2013
I love this!! And, I loved Fried Green Tomatoes. Just reread it.
Paul Bauman said on Aug 03, 2013
Great post, Alex! My dad raised bees as a hobby. This brought back some fond memories.
Amanda Anderson said on Aug 08, 2013
It's nice to read something from the other side of the story, Alex! I have to admit, I've been mortified of bees ever since I was a little kid-- so I usually don't hear their 'charming' side of the story!

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