Charlie B. carefully examines a frame at Gorman Farms



Last updated March 6, 2014



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Course | Gorman Farm 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.

  • Miscellaneous

    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.

    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.