Charlie B. carefully examines a frame at Gorman Farms



Last updated April 29, 2018



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Course | Gorman Farm Hives | Dayton Hives | Miscellaneous

In early 2011, Norma and I took an interest in beekeeping. As of the end of 2011, we don't yet own an apiary (beehive) and it is hard to say if we will in the future. But even if we don't, we can say we've learned a great deal about the art and science of beekeeping and developed an appreciation for these fascinating creatures.


From March 1, 2011 to March 29, 2011, Norma and I took a class called 2011 Beginning Beekeeping Course taught by the Howard County Beekeepers.

Our text book was The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile.

We were motivated to enroll after learning that we could legally own an apiary on our property as a result of recent county legislation.

The classes were full, with maybe 80 people per class. Some attendees were beginners while others were veterans. Many like Norma and I were not yet ready to commit to buying an apiary. We wanted to see what we were getting into first. Based on things I had read, it didn't sound like owning an apiary involved much work. But the class taught me otherwise.

There is a great deal to consider before investing in supplies such as where and what type of bees to buy and where to put the apiary. After getting things set up, feeding, cleaning, inspecting, and treating for disease and pests may take up a considerable amount of time. In the first year, one may not even get any honey and if one does get any, it will probably be little. Would it all be worth it? Hard to say.

Norma and I both enjoy nature and are fascinated by things like bees. We enjoyed taking the class. Even if we never own a apiary, the knowledge we obtained will add to our appreciation of God's little creatures.

Ideally, I would like to own egg-laying chickens and a fish pond but we'll need a lot more property to make that happen. But bees are most certainly a do-able hobby. Maybe once we get our house in order, we will consider an apiary more seriously.

Shortly after our class ended, we saw several members from the club at the Howard County Greenfest on April 2, 2011. They were out recruiting new members and educating folks as to why beekeeping is good for the environment. I hope they were successful.

Gorman Farm Hives

After our class ended, several of the experienced beekeepers invited us to see their hives. Closest to our home in Savage was Charlie B. who owns an apiary at Gorman Farms. He also owns the presidential apiary at the White House. These are special bees with high level security clearances.

On April 3, 2011, Norma and I paid a visit to Gorman Farms and got a close-up view of Charlie's bees. I took several photos.
  • First photo, first column: The apiaries of Gorman Farm.
  • Second photo, first column: Brood cells are used to grow new bees.
  • Third photo, first column: Capped honey cells store honey.
  • Fourth photo, first column: Charlie blows smoke on the bees to keep them calm so they won't attack us.
  • Fifth photo, first column: Charlie points to the queen which appears much larger than the workers.
  • Sixth photo, first column: The workers circle around the queen, tending to her every need.
  • First photo, second column: Once the queen is found, it is good to mark her with paint to make identification easier. This is done by placing her between mesh wire and a sponge. A paint brush with paint is then inserted between the wires in the mesh to put a dot on her.
  • Second photo, second column: After the workers build comb, the queen lays eggs in the per cell.
  • Third photo, second column: Cells are sealed up while the eggs develop. Once a white larva hatches, the seal is broken so adult bees can tend to them.
  • Fourth photo, second column: Just as cats attract fleas, bees can sometimes attract mites. The dot on this drone (male) larva is a mite.
  • Fifth photo, second column: After the larva mature, they turn into pupa, then eventually become adults. For these freshly hatched drones, their first adult memories will be of getting their photo taken.
  • First photo, third column: Circled in this photo are two drones which are noticeably larger than the workers.
  • Second photo, third column: Compared to the queen and workers, drones have very large eyes. This one has unusually small wings...not a good sign.
  • Third photo, third column: To ensure the bees are well fed and hopefully produce a surplus of honey, they are fed syrup.
  • Fourth photo, third column: Norma holding a frame full of honey.
  • Fifth photo, third column: According to Lifespan of a Bee, the queen can live from 2-5 years. The drone lives 40-50 days. Workers live from 1-4 months. In this photo, dead bodies litter the floor of the hive.
  • Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Dayton Hives

    After having completed the classroom sessions of the Howard County Beekeepers 2018 Beginning Beekeeping Course, Sara and I did our field day visit to a hive in Dayton, Howard County. This was at the house of Robert. Robert has had bees for several years. Last winter was tough and he lost quite a few bees to small hive beetles.

    To prepare for this event, I purchased two Bee Keeping Suit, Jacket, Pull Over, Smock with a Veil by VIVO (BEE-V105) at $25 each. Sara and I wore gloves that we taped (using painters tape) to our shirt cuffs to close off any bare skin openings. I also wore military boot bands to keep bees from flying up my pant legs.

    There were five students in our group. Only one of us (a woman in Fulton) already has bees.

    Before we all approached Robert's two active hives, he smoked them using dry pine needles. This makes the bees hungry and passive. See first photo. But since it was somewhat early and not too hot, they were less aggressive than normal (not that they would be aggressive).

    I stood in a location to get good photos but this was not a good place to stand from the bees' point of view because I was in their flight path.

    In the second photo, bees enter and exit the hive through an entrance reducer. This helps keep predators out. Another thing that helps (according to Robert) is putting diatomaceous earth on the ground around the hives. Then cover it with some mulch to keep it from blowing away. It will kill bugs that crawl.

    Robert was providing a pollen patty and sugar water to his bees via a feeding bucket. Both were under the top cover which was weighted with a brick. He noted that after filling the feed bucket, it should be inverted away from the hive to keep sugar water from getting on the bees or frames. In another hive, we saw fondant that he feed to them.

    Robert used his hive tool to show us some frames (third photo). He started from the outside and worked his way in. The outer frames had less comb and activity. In the frame shown in the fourth photo, the bees are building comb away from the foundation. This might be a problem if I decided to invest in the flow hive. But if I buy this (~$600), then I won't need to buy a honey extractor (~$150). It seems really cool but I need to do more research before I make a decision.

    In one of the more inner frames, we saw lots of activity and located the queen, which I believe I have circled in the fifth photo.

    Robert also showed us the hives that failed late last year. There was evidence of mouse damage and wax moths. I wonder if my chickens might help keep mice under control.

    Robert did a lot of work to plant various things that bees love, including an almond tree. I believe he said he didn't get honey in the first year but in the second year, he got 30 pounds. I don't remember how many hives that was from.

    We thanked Robert for opening up his back yard to us.

    How was the bee suit? Well I'm glad it isn't heavy. Those things can get pretty warm. It seems to be made well. There are the really inexpensive ones an there are really expensive ones without a whole lot in between. The ones I bought leaning towards the cheap side. It is fine for looking down but I found the bill of the hat had a tendency to pull downward so I kept pushing it up. Otherwise, it was fine.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Bee Suicide
    Imagine having sex while flying, only to have your penis explode! Believe it or not, this is what happens to male bees. Glad I'm not one of them. For more information, see Honey Bee Mating: A Graphic Example of Sexual Suicide Among Insects.

    Bee Humor
    Two bees that are old friends meet up. One notices that the other is looking thin, pale, and weak. The other says she has been suffering from American Foulbrood Disease. The first bee then says that she should attend Bar Mitzvahs because the food is so good and the people there are very friendly. A few weeks pass and the bees meet up again. This time, the former sickly bee is looking very healthy. The first bee comments on this but also notices that the other bee is wearing a yarmulke (the small round cap that religious Jews often wear). This prompts the first bee to ask the second bee if she converted to Judaism. The second bee replies, "Oh no, I didn't convert. I just didn't want them to think I was a WASP."
    - told to me by Trudy Schrader

    Who can guess what this is? When I asked co-workers and Facebook friends, I got a lot of great answers:
  • Hard boiled egg slicer.
  • Lemon wedge squeezer.
  • Something used by coin collectors.
  • All sorts of guesses for things involving chickens.
  • A device for removing coffee beans from wild cat shit [my favorite].

  • I won this at a raffle at my beekeeping class in 2018. It is a queen bee catcher. The slats are designed so that the queen bee cant fit through but I think the worker bees can. And unlike a hair clip, it doesn't close all the way so the queen can't be crushed. I don't know if I'll ever use it but at only $5.95, I feel it has already earned its keep with the guessing game.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Whether or not Norma and I will take up beekeeping remains to be seen. But even if we don't, our time was not wasted. We now have a much deeper appreciation for bees and their keepers.

    Fast forward four years. I am re-taking this course with my good friend Sara in early 2018. I intend to have two hives early in 2019. We'll see if that holds true.