Me and the Hive

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Me and the Hive

by Jehu Brogden     Stratford High School

Jehu Brodgen head shot


Buzz, buzz, buzz. Stay still Jehu, you’re a statue, think calming thoughts3 photos of bee hives like ice cream, like this bee kindly flying away. These were my thoughts as I stood petrified on a summer evening, out beekeeping with my father. As always, I was wondering how the heck my father had talked me into doing this. Sure, their honey is sweet, but their barbed stinger is sharp and there are approximately sixty thousand1 of them. All armed and ready to go. Then I feel it, the soft griping of the insect’s six legs, as it slowly starts to crawl up my overalls. I see it’s “abdomen is abruptly bent downward2” its readying for the sting in the exact moment my body tenses. I feel the hot burning sensation as the barbed dagger enters my body, I know the bee is dead. But I need to run.

Bees may not form an angry storm cloud like we see in films, but they do work together to get rid of a threat to the hive. I run as fast as I can, my legs pumping, and I swear that I have never run so fast in my life. I arrive at home in a world of pain, but thankfully I know what to do. I sprint to the kitchen and seized a packet of sodium bicarbonate (or as I knew it at the time baking soda). Next I quickly removed the stinger as it was still pumping its venom into me (which is composed of 88% water and is acidic with a ph. between 4.5 and 5.53). Once I had done this I spread the paste on thy skin and let out a sigh of relief as I knew that the acid in the venom was being neutralised. This was the first time that I can remember using science, because science to me is not just knowledge but being able to apply this knowledge.

Some days later…

The bees are surrounding us once again with their ugly buzzing, crashing into my bee suit like kamikazes. They have no remorse, just like me at this moment. I was fed up with this queen rearing business. The hives are even more unhappy than usual, although to be honest I can’t blame them. After all we had just split the hive and made it queen-less. But when you are getting stung daily you do start to question your father’s choice in hobbies. At least painting doesn’t hurt.

We quickly took out a frame of brood and returned to our shed. It was time to start grafting. I was nervous at this point because, if I mucked this up then all work we had done in the last week would be for nought. I turned on the cold light and held the grafting tool loosely. It was shaped like a pen but had a spatula at the end. It’s just a game of Operation I say to myself. The goal is to very, very gently slide the spatula down the side of the comb and then gently remove the larvae without rolling or squashing it. Then I had to gently place them into the prepared queen cell. Once I had repeated this 10 more times and placed the frame inside the hive the anticipation mounted, as there would be no way of knowing if any were undamaged. We had to wait 8 days from the time we put them into the incubator till the queens emerged from their cells. We do this to separate the queens because otherwise “should other queens emerge they fight when they meet4”. On the eighth day I found that six queen’s cells had hatched. My father and I were excited as this was my first attempt and his previous try had failed.

Science has helped me and my father because beekeeping relies heavily on observation. This is because first we had to observe the bees’ behaviour to gain the knowledge we needed and then we had to learn how to apply this knowledge. This skill is useful as a lot can go wrong with bee hives including American foul brood, varroa and robbing. The ability to observe the hive’s behaviour and have the knowledge to diagnose the problem is essential to beekeeping and other areas in life.


1: Contemporary Queen rearing by Harry Laid Law Jr pg1.
2: The hive and the honey bee collaboration of: E. L. Atkins, R Banker, Dr. C. G. Butler, G. H. Cale, Sr., Dr. G. H. Cttzale, Jr., Dr. E. Crane, C. C Dadant, W. J. Diehnelt, Dr. A. Dietz, Dr. B. Furgala, Dr. N. E. Gary, Dr. T. A. Gochnauer, C. E. Killion, Sr., Dr. E. C. Martin, Dr. E Oertel, J. Powers, Dr. F. Robinson, Dr. W. C. Rothenbuhler, Dr. F. Ruttner, Dr. H. Shimanuki, Dr. R. W. Shuel, Dr. R. E. Snodgrass, W. A. Stephen, G. F. Townsend, Dr. J. W. White, Jr., Dr. P. C. Witherell, and H. F. York, Jr. pg 110.
4: Contemporary Queen rearing by Harry Laid Law Jr pg 8.

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