Bees and Beekeeping


So I’ve been working on a silly short story idea, and despite the rule of “write what you know”, the main character is a hobbyist beekeeper for various story reasons.

I don’t know much about beekeeping, so I’m doing crash courses by watching a ton of beekeeper vlogs and reading stuff online.

This thread is your express invitation to post all the fun stuff (and wisdom) you want to share about beekeeping!

I am taking all kinds of notes to properly write a character who is a bee enthusiast! :grin:


The one thing I know is that if you’re bringing groceries home only to see that a beekeeper is taking down a hive from the tree outside your apartment, and he says it should be safe to watch, and your now-ex-girlfriend says she wants to watch, but you have misgivings, trust your gut.


We have 5 beehives, and we rent them from the Rent-a-Bee lady here, so she takes care of them. I can tell you that there are many bees in them and they will sting you if you get too close.

A few fun facts: we have to have a water trough for them that has floating things in it because the bees like to land on floating things in the water. We put sticks and leaves in there.

Also, bees apparently dislike dark colors and you are not supposed to go near a beehive if you’re wearing dark colors. They may attack you, as my husband found out. I guess the dark colors are associated with predators?

And finally, keeping ants out of the beehives is a PITA. They want that honey. We had to make moats around the hives.


Oh dear. Sorry to hear that’s your experience with bees, Amanda. My family had hives all through my time growing up and it was pretty different. The only time they got ornery was if they were about to swarm, or it was really hot and you got into the hive’s flight line.

As for a random anecdote, it was my job as a kid to clean out the solar wax melter which I hated because it was really messy. But, now as an adult (and my parents have scaled down to one hive) I wish I had access to all that wax for candles and stuff.


That is absolutely adorable. This is also something I’m learning during my research: bees are really cute, lol.

I suppose bears look like dark shadows, as they approach. :eyes:

Yeah this was something that has been mentioned during my research, but I haven’t gotten any information on specifics and how it’s prevented so…

…this was an especially-useful bit of new information! :grin:

I’ll need to look into what this is. The YouTube beekeeper I’m taking notes from right now doesn’t seem to have one. Thanks!


I don’t beekeep, but I make mead. The plants bees pollinate with create different flavors in the honey, which gets enhanced in mead! For example, wildflowers have a different taste compared to orange blossom.

It’s more than just flavor - manuka honey has antibacterial properties, due to the manuka plant.


Thank you, @HanonO, for moving this to the new Story Research category…!


In Nepal, there’s a certain type of flower the bees there like to pollinate, which leads to hallucinogenic honey, often know as Nepalese Mad Honey. Allegedly low doses can lead to hallucinations and euphoria, while larger doses can cause psychosis and/or death. Given that it’s export is banned in numerous countries as a narcotic, this seems to bolster these claims.


I once visited a beekeeping course and I’ve read about it. Here some stuff I know, but unfortunately no anecdote).

There’s the Varroa which harms beehives.

Beekeeping is a lot of work.

Some keepers treat their bees without protective clothing. But every keeper has a smoker at hand because smoke makes bees peaceful. BTW bees can recognize faces!

People have eaten honey from old Egyptian pharao tombs and didn’t get ill or sick. Honey never spoils, because of the sugar. If harvested too early or watered the water gets too much, then and only then honey can become sour, but still doesn’t spoil.

Beehives are worth several hundreds of Dollars, so some are stolen.

If attacked by bees you can run away some meters and the bees will give up. There are killer bees (for example in the USA) that will NEVER stop following. Those can kill a person. Unfortunately they are relatively rare. It is said that German bees are more peaceful/calm than for example Polish or American ones. Genetics, but don’t know why.

Bees crawling out of the comb start immediately (not even pausing half a second) working (only the female ones).

Culture bees are needed because wild bees can’t harvest agricultural monocultures sufficiently. And wild bees are needed because culture bees can’t handle the diversity of natural plants.

As a pupil I had specialization in bio (and math) so this triggers my bio interests. That’s why I told this long posting. I could go on for more, but I think it’s enough.


(Bolding done by me.)

Rooting for the bees??


Hehe! Was that a Freudian slip showing a sadistic aspect of me? :slight_smile:


Oh, one more: Sometime keepers without protection get mass attacked and die. Very rare but it happens.


I’ve always heard that there’s some sort of “antibiotic” component of bee saliva (or whatever goo is in their bodies?) but you’re right it’s the sugar, and a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen peroxide?

And apparently honey “doesn’t spoil” because of this. If you leave honey a while (it does need to be sealed) it will coagulate/crystalize/solidify, but you can heat it up (in the microwave even) to restore it.


Most of this information is from chats with or stories about the Bee Man, who sells the only kind of honey I’ve ever liked (blueberry!), wears a full suit (no one’s really seen his face before, nor does he share a name- just Bee Man, he seems to find it really amusing that locals have taken to calling him with some degree of reverence), and will teach you to carefully cradle a bee if you ask nicely.

Bees can’t really quite see red as well as other colours, and are better suited to seeing blues, yellows, and greeny-blue colours. It’s because they’re great at picking up shorter wavelengths like ultra-violet, and also polarized light, which makes it easier for them to be able to detect the sun even with brisk cloud cover overhead. They wiggle and dance to communication uncannily accurate directions to one another, largely because they can pick up on the position of the sun relative to landmarks. This means that they’re much more efficient than other common pollinators in the same area, because they can team up and work together!

His bees generally would scope out far from the nest at first, not picking up any pollen nearer to the hive initially, so he would have to adjust where he planted his blooms and placed the hive accordingly. It’s because if a bee was going all the way out to the far hills or something, it’d be like you or me dragging along bags of groceries both to the final store and then back to the hive- much more efficient to fly out far, and grab as you return, so you don’t carry things for as long. Bees can’t actually taste a lot of things, but they’re insanely good at picking up sugar concentrations, which makes sense, since it’s part of how they determine if a flower is suitable enough for them to harvest from. Their foraging range will expand as they age, since younger baby bees tend to stick close to the hive.

They also display flower constancy, so bees will prefer one species of flower when out gathering. They’ll remember their favourite flowers, and return over time! This benefits both the bee and the flower- the pollen is more likely to successfully transfer to the same species of flower, and the bees actually get better at quickly and effectively scooping up pollen grains into their pollen baskets. A lot of flowers that cater to bees feature little steppy platforms for them to rest on while busily at work. It takes bees about twice the time for them to scoop up nectar than it does for pollen.

Bees will buzz to help dislodge sticky grains of pollen from the actual blooms, and brush their legs together to jostle the pollen into the basket. Some nectar is needed to be able to actually goop together the pollen grains. They have a little spike on their legs to dislodge the payload once they return back home, and they’ll cutely headbutt it into place often to help pack it down tight inside of the cell. A little honey is usually added, to make it more yummy for the bees and help seal it down- and spit enzymes help ferment the little packet to make it easier for them to digest. This stuff is called ‘bee bread’ which Bee Man and I agree is so stinking cute.

Bees will also reduce their foraging intensity and switch over to grabbing more water if temperatures get too hot in the summer- at about the temperatures I joke about being inhospitable to human life for myself, so about 30C. Water collection trips happen a lot more often than when they’re out grabbing either nectar or pollen. However, when temperatures rise, they’ll also reduce their frequency of pollen and nectar collecting, which is sort of a concern given the whole global climate change and record sweltering heats we’ve been breaking.

He would normally feed his bees inside of their hives in early spring, because they’re too sleepy peepy to actually wander out and fly to get some, plus- cold sugar syrup isn’t a tasty treat to them, so they won’t come and get it. He normally didn’t pollen feed them though, since we have a lot of early blooming plants around here. He fed them in early spring, after the First Thaw when light broke over the hives, and also in fall to help them chunk up and store away food, since they shiver and cuddle to stay warm, and all that vibration and dancing takes a lot of energy.

Around my birthday, is when he said that he would start chunking them up- (mid September), but he would feed them up before the temperature dropped too low and they stopped flying around on their own volition, so he fed them a bit earlier than other keepers he knew, since he wasn’t super concerned with high honey yields (he sold artisanal honeys, so in very small batch quantities- but they were delicious.)

I still crave that blueberry honey, and it’s the only kind I’ve ever liked, even when purchasing from other small scale local producers. Other honey kind of tastes like dirt/too earthy or sickly sweet in comparison. It kind of ruined other honeys for me, to be honest. But it’s so delicious… He has no online presence though, and only sells locally- he wasn’t interested in trying to scale up or ship things. You can only buy it from him if you happen to wander into him at the fairs and farmer’s markets around here.) He also did not feed them dry sugar, because bees usually toss it out of the hive, and they actually need water to eat the sugar.

In a novel adaptation of my life or something, I’m pretty sure that man was a member of the Fae, haha.


And some aspect I think is really worth mentioning: Bees tend to react aggressive to smells, so as a keeper avoid sweat and perfum etc.


Ahahahahaha, there’s a first-time discovery story here, I’m sure…!

Ohh! Cool!!

Lol, my friends and I figured out this trick when we were kids. If we accidentally entered bee territory, we just ran away for maybe 20 meters, and waiting to hearing any following buzzes.

Luckily we never happened across any of these…! :grin: Adding all of this info to my story notes, by the way! Thank you!

Oh, that’s really interesting…!!

I greatly appreciate it!

Adding this lil fun fact to the notes as well!


Ohhh I should look into this more…!

This is amazing. :star_struck:

Positively adorable

Thank you so much for this. I was hearing some details here and there about bees taking water breaks, but had yet to find info on what weather temperatures are needed to cause this behavior to become more frequent.

Yeah, environmental temperatures can probably cause colony collapse disorder, I’m certain. That’s terrifying.





Phew… Wait, unfortunately?!


Okay, I have added everything in this thread to my notes! This was excellent! I also got a lot of leads from this, which I could research for more information and clarifications!

My notes on bees and beekeeping have reached 3,000 words, altogether!


Hmm, one thing I didn’t see in here is that honey bees, despite being the major domesticated ones, are not necessarily great at pollinating certain species. For instance, since we do a lot of tomatoes, we’ll buy temporary hives of bumblebees. Hoverflies also are pretty good pollinators for a bunch of things.

That may not be relevant if your focus is on beekeeping and honey, but some of the pollinators other than honey bees are pretty neat too… e.g. it looks like the University of Minnesota hosts a hi-res scan of Befriending Bumble Bees


Ultimately, honey lasts because it has too much sugar to allow bacteria to grow (its lowers the water activity too much), and when bacteria can’t grow, they die.

Interestingly, anything that doesn’t support bacterial growth will get safer over time - fresh honey can have botulinum spores in it, but they’ll gradually die over time (radiation etc etc), so ancient egyptian honey would be safer than modern honey (for people who can’t eat it because of the botulism risk - e.g. babies).

It does also have the hydrogen peroxide thing going on, which is why it has antibacterial properties when applied to other things, like wounds.