The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – April 2016

- April 1, 2016 - (excerpt)


People Are as Interesting as Bees

A Beekeeping Story from Russia

The 2015 season was awful for the beekeepers in the vast territory of the Ural Mountains, including Baskiria, and the Perm region, which are famous for their honey and vast yields. This Perm region will be the scene of a story that comes later. Most of the beekeepers received nothing from their bees. We had a rainy summer, and day temperatures averaged around 20 degrees Celsius in my town. It was only due to my 35 years of experience, as well as one stubborn farmer, who sticks to planting canola, that I managed to yield half of the ton of canola honey that makes up half of my average harvest. I moved more than half of my operation to these canola fields, and put the hives in the farmer’s orchard.

In the beginning of August, all hope of a good harvest had died; it seemed as if even the bees were reconciled with their fate, and had started to expel drones. Then, all of the sudden, the weather changed and the skies cleared, despite the forecast. I was away, and unfortunately couldn’t observe the weather change, but according to the farmer, it was a great show! By 10 a.m. on the 9th of August, millions of bees climbed up into the air, making kind of a vertical tube or dome over the orchard and rushed to the canola, which was past the peak of its bloom. I was lucky enough to have put on extra supers and extracted the incoming honey within 10 days to prevent its granulation. “I was lucky,” not because I don’t know how to do this job, but because of my changing attitude to the business. And, the terrible summer weather had added to it. My prevailing interests had drifted from farming to other things, like the English speaking clubs, functioning in Ekaterinburg and set up by American missionaries of the Baptist and Mormon churches. Lately, I had found it as interesting and captivating to observe different humans, as to follow the life of bees. So, as soon as my wife “issues a permit” and lets me go, I travel to Ekaterinburg and stay there two or three days. The following story concerns both men and beekeeping.

Last year, I had a new man help me with my hives. I have had many farmhands ranging from 16 to 60 years of age during my beekeeping career. I had even raised two young fatherless boys, sharing with them all of the hard work, and teaching them not to impulsively flee after being stung many times by aggressive Russian bees. I was proud to help a guy with a violent drinking problem to recover from this dependency and to lean on the bees—to focus his life on bees. This man started as an assistant, and not once did he let me down during the hectic time of the main flow. However, he then became addicted to beekeeping. He even gave up his drinking habits, and after 5 years, started his own beekeeping operation.

This year, I worked with a new guy who had moved to my town recently. His name is Victor. But, despite his name, he has not been victorious all his life. He is 58 years old now. He was lucky enough to enter a naval academy in the 1970’s with a brilliant future ahead of him. However, everything had changed in …