Bee School, Virgin Islands Style
Bee keeping is a fast growing hobby all over the place. A friend who lives in the Virgin Islands has recently taken, like I did, a bee keeping course. Unlike our Half Pond Bees, who are huddled together fighting off frigid weather, the VI bees are living the good life in the temperate climes of the Caribbean.
Bee school here in the north is interesting, and a great way to break up the monotony of late winter. Our Bee School took place in an ordinary classroom, with chalk boards and a power point projector. The instructors were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We didn’t take any field trips, for obvious reasons.
In the middle and northern regions of the continental U.S., most honey bees are of European origin. However, in the Virgin Islands, according to my friend, most–perhaps all–of the honey bees are “Africanized”. Africanized bees tend to swarm–divide into two colonies–more frequently than European honey bees. And, unlike European honey bees, they are not at all fussy about where they choose to take up residence. So, they are often found in walls or other vacant spaces. This is probably why the VI Bee School supply list looks like this:
- Chain Saw
At our Bee School, we took quizzes and our home work assignments involved things like reading chapters in the Bee Book. We are sissies.
Here’s the VI Bee Keeping students on a field trip:
If you search the web for information on Africanized honey bees, you will find a lot of photographs of strikingly patterned honey comb. Here’s what the VI Bee Keepers found in the ceiling:
Several sources claim that Island honey is particularly delicious, because it is made from hundreds of varieties of flowering plants from which the bees forage (as opposed to honey from hives plunked in the middle of an alfalfa field, say). Moreover, there are those that claim that Island honey has superior medicinal virtues as well.
Charles Leonard, a bee keeper from St. Thomas, explains that, “Most beekeepers in the States keep their hives in an orchard of a particular crop, whereas the bees here have free run of an extremely varied ecosystem. Thus, the bee pollen collected here contains the benefits and antihistamines from a greater spectrum of plants.” (St. Johns Sun Times, Oct. 9, 2008.)
It will be a great sacrifice, but I think the best way to test the veracity of this theory is a trip to the Virgin Islands to sample some of this honey.