May 7, 2002 - Inside the Beehive

Are you really busy as a bee? Just how busy is a bee? The buzz around the beehive is real homeland security. Nobody, but nobody, gets inside without getting the once-over from the security guard.

John Kaiser not only has the key to the back door, he knows when and how to apply the smoke, and why. He explains that the smoke will anesthetize them or make them think there's a forest fire. "Gorge yourself with honey, girls," the bees might be saying. "We've got to leave!" Which in theory keeps them too preoccupied to sting an intruder. John had put me in charge of the smoke, which was kind of scary. Each puff seemed to make the critters even madder. "Aw, they're not going to bother you as long as you're with me," was John's reassuring promise. "When you're dealing with 40,000 to 50,000 females, you don't know what they're going to do or why they do it!" He pointed to one of the bees. "See this little lady right here with that orange? That's pollen, pollen in her rear legs." Then another caught his eye. "Oh, there's my queen. She'll come over a comb and dip her tail in, and when she does that, she's laying an egg. She lays between 1,200 and 1,500 a day." Just one layer, they're called "supers".

Of one of John's hives weighs close to 50 pounds, most of it pure honey. So if you really are "busy as a bee," you deserve a raise! For the record, even with all his protective gear, John does get stung every now and then. And, no, he never gets used to it.