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Monday, May 2, 2016

The secret lives of bees, revealed at last

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Charles Murphree served as the instructor for Tuesday's session. He sure looks calm for a guy covered in bees on the slideshow, doesn't he?
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty)
Take a look inside of a beekeeper's hive sometime. What you'll find seems like a frenzied swarm of activity, but it is actually a model of efficiency that is difficult to parallel.

One could almost liken it to America during World War II. Everyone had a specific role -- some more glamorous, some more dangerous -- but each one important and vital.

Each bee will work itself to the brink of death just to keep the hive up and running. That's just what they do.

Dr. Ed Perryman discusses hive construction and composition with a student.
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty)
Inside scoop

Reading about bee hives is interesting, but to witness the inner workings is truly fascinating.

For avid beekeeper Dr. Ed Perryman of Shelbyville, simply watching the bees work and examining their progress is the best part of beekeeping.

"Just watching the bees is fun," says Dr. Perryman. "It's amazing. In a hive, there might be 60,000 bees. Some are carrying water, some are cleaning cells, some are feeding babies, some are taking in nectar and some are carrying off dead bees. They do what is appropriate for their age."

Passing it on

Last week, Dr. Perryman and other members of the Duck River Beekeeper's Association imparted some of their knowledge to future beekeepers in Shelbyville at their annual beginner's beekeeping class. Instructors for the week included Dr. Perryman, Charles Murphree, Ed Holcombe, Dean Honeycutt and Burr Beachboard.

The week-long class covered all of the basics. There was basic bee biology, personal protective equipment, hive components and construction, pests and diseases, and carrying your hive through its first winter. At the end of the week, three lucky participants even received a free beginner's beekeeping kit.

If you missed last week, don't fret on it. You won't find a more earnestly helpful and supportive group of kindred spirits than with the Duck River Beekeeper's Association.

Words of help

"The camaraderie is great," Dr. Perryman says. "If you've got a problem, you can ask an older beekeeper. In many cases, the advice that we share with each other has saved hives."

So -- other than the mouth-watering honey and sense of self-accomplishment -- why would someone want to build and work a beehive?

In one study done by the USDA, it was stated that three of every four bites of food that you eat come by the way of bees.

You see, without the pollination that honeybees provide to plants, we'd be in serious trouble. No more squash, melons, berries, beans or peas. No more clover or alfalfa. Without clover, our soil's fertility loses integrity. Without alfalfa, you can say goodbye to dairy, poultry and swine products.


After passing a law prohibiting folks from bringing bees into Utah, alfalfa seed production fell 50 percent in one year. The next year they lost another 25 percent of production. Soon, the law was repealed and beekeepers were invited back to the state.

There may be several valid reasons for keeping your own hive, and Dr. Perryman and his comrades at the Duck River Beekeeper's Association will be glad to recite them to you. However, they won't lie to you.

"If you keep bees, you're gonna get stung," Dr. Perryman confesses. "At first I would really swell, but now when I get stung I hardly notice it. Stings are good," he laughs.

No fear required

"There's a fear about bees," says Dr. Perryman. "I have shown a lot of people the insides of a hive, and once they see it they are fascinated. Most of the fear just evaporates and they become enthralled."

Of course, there are plenty of options for protective gear to prevent almost all stings. And you can always ask the members of the Beekeeper's Association for advice on steering clear of stings.

If you're interested in joining or supporting the Beekeeper's Association, the next meeting will be on Tuesday, April 3. If you have any questions, you can contact Dr. Perryman at (931) 684-4268.Charles Murphree served as the instructor for Tuesday's session. He sure looks calm for a guy covered in bees on the slideshow, doesn't he? (hint, hint)


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