By Bud Oglibee

For the Star Beacon

The most feared, maligned and unsung hero of the agricultural industry is the honey bee. Without it, orchard, vegetable and certain grain crops would be of much less quantity and quality. Farmers realize the importance of the honey bee in pollinating the flower of their product to the extent they will pay a beekeeper to place honey bee hives in or near their crop fields.

The job of the honey bee is so vast and necessary, there must be large numbers to accomplish the job. That is why there are 50,000 or more bees in each hive. As is necessary in any well-ordered and productive factory, each bee must perform its assigned task.

The largest bee, the queen, lays fertilized eggs, which produce more bees. She is attended by unfertilized female worker bees; they are the ones that sting. The worker starts life as a nurse, then as a house bee, and then as a field bee. At this stage, the worker brings in the pollen, nectar and/or water. The drones' only job is to fertilize the queen. This occurs in flight.

A beekeeper obtains bees in these ways: (1) Bees can be purchased by the pound, which contains roughly 3,500 bees, or by 3-pound lots, which contain a queen. (2) Sometimes a beekeeper receives a frantic call from a terrified person crying: "There is a swarm of bees in my yard. Would you, could you please come and get them?" (3) A beekeeper is fortunate if a swarm just simply moves into a waiting empty hive. (4) A keeper might hang a trap in a tree, hoping a searching swarm will take up residence. (5) A "nuc" can be purchased, which contains four or five frames with a queen and nurse bees and a sealed brood, which is then introduced into the hive. (6) A queen can be purchased separately, which is then introduced into a hive, which already contains nurse bees and a sealed brood. This brood has been transferred from an established hive already.

Honey is not just honey. The flavor and color depends on the flower the bee gets the nectar from. The bee visits flowers in the country, but also in the city. An example of that is the Courthouse Square in Warren, which has a prolific crop of white clover in the lawn, providing a feast to the honey bee. I observed this last summer during the "Friday Noon in the Park" concert series. This shouldn't scare away the audience because the bees are too busy to bother a person, if the person does not bother the bees.

A seasoned beekeeper gets "turned on" by the awesome experience of getting "suited and veiled" to introduce a swarm of bees into a hive. ; ;While the suit and veil are designed to keep the bees out, an occasional one or two sometimes, somehow manages to sneak into the suit, causing some consternation to say nothing of -- ouch! ; ;-- some discomfort. ; ;Sometimes an angry bee or two or more will chase the keeper away from the hive and follow him as he seeks shelter. The bees are brushed off with a broom by a wary helper, before the beekeeper enters the shelter.

I became aware of the value of bees and their keeping in the mid-1930s when my grandfather explained his strawberry crop was of such high quality and quantity because of the colony of bees he kept nearby. ; ;This straw-hatted gentleman sparked my interest in beekeeping. I lacked the courage, time and opportunity to act on this until the 1990s. At that time and since then, I've become an avid "keeper of bees."

The state of Ohio recognizes beekeeping as an agricultural activity, the same as dairy and grain farming, and thus it is not subject to zoning restrictions. ; ;

Bud Oglibee is a beekeeper and lives in Kinsman.

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