Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Meet a beekeeper!

In honor of National Pollinator Week, let's meet a beekeeper!

Welcome to Mama Joules! Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Michele Bennett Decoteau and I am a beekeeper. I’m still a "newbee", having only had bees for about 14 months. I love beekeeping because I can learn new things all the time about bees, plants, science, history, carpentry, and business. I also love the smell of beeswax and honey.

The bee with the green dot is the queen.Michele says, "I name my queen bees and the bee with the green spot is Hope. Beekeepers use a standard color marking on queens - those born in years ending with 7 are yellow, years ending in 8 are red, years ending with 9 are green. Hope was born this year so her spot is green."

I love how much insects can tell us about our environment. As a citizen scientist, I’ve helped catalog the different species of butterflies and dragonflies in Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as participated in Firefly Watch. I am going to participate in a pollinator project next year to see which types of bees come to sunflowers across the United States.

I love bugs so much I used to work at a company called Bugman Educational Entoprises. I got to show kids and adults all sorts of cool bugs from millipedes to scorpions to preying mantids.

What's the difference between a honeybee and a bumblebee? What kind(s) of bees do you keep?
Honeybees and bumblebees are two of many bees found in the U.S. There are many native bees that range from tiny, metallic sweat bees to large, furry carpenter bees. Most bees are female. Male bees generally have one job – to mate with a female bee then die.

I keep honeybees. More specifically, I keep European or Italian Honeybees. Honeybees store honey to give them food to make it through the winter or other times without flowers. Bumblebees also make honey but they only store small amounts. They only need small amounts because only a few bumbles live through the winter – usually one or two fertilized females. Honeybees on the other hand, will have hundreds of bees that over winter with a single egg-laying queen.

Both are pollinators. Honeybees pollinate about 1 bite out of every 3 bites of food you eat. Bumblebees pollinate about 1 bite out of 9 bites of food.

Thanks so much for joining us, Michele! To learn more about Michele and her experiences as a beekeeper, please visit her blog, Blue Hive Journals. We'll continue our interview next time as we explore bee intelligence (read the next part of this interview here).


If you liked this post, check out:

Meet a beekeeper! Part 2: The intelligence of bees

Meet a beekeeper! Part 3: Colony Collapse Disorder

Meet a beekeeper! Part 4: Learning to keep bees

National Pollinator Week 2009

Photo credits: Michele Bennett Decoteau

[10/3/09: Updated to include links to the remainder of the interview.]

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