Friday, May 1, 2015

Robbing the Bees and Jury Duty

Well, this may be the oddest blog post title ever!

I recently was honored to be chosen for Jury Duty. Say what? Honored? Yep. Believe it or not, it was probably the coolest 2 weeks of my life. So I either live a pretty boring life, or I'm crazy, or maybe a tad of both. At any rate, I kept referring to my 2 weeks as "Jury Duty Vacation."

Overall, it was a great learning experience. We had the option to sit and watch movies all day for sure, but we could also speak with judges and magistrates, observe court rooms and cases, take tours of the Ohio Supreme Court and Statehouse as well as our maximum security jail downtown (the latter was a slightly unnerving experience). It was an eye-opening experience to see the courts in action (it was NOT like Law & Order) and get a re-education on the legal system.

I also got to walk around downtown Columbus after jury duty ended for the day, so I felt like a tourist in my own city. I'm quite fond of the Avocado, Bacon And Tomato Hash at First Watch Cafe, Pistachia Vera's  Raspberry Passion Fruit Truffle Torte, and the mini cupcakes at Kitty's Cakes. I ate like a tourist for 2 weeks, but I did so much walking that I didn't gain any weight.

When I wasn't being "educated" by the municipal court, I was reading an awesome book called Robbing the Bees by Holly Bishop. It's been on my reading list for some time, but I'll be adding it back to my list because it's worth multiple readings. The book is a narrative of the author's experiences in beekeeping, another commercial beekeeper's business, and the history of honey and beekeeping throughout the ages. It has so many fascinating bits of information, so I'm sharing a few things that I found to be the most riveting.
  • 99% of the average beehive is female. Male bees are pretty useless except for mating (they can't fly well, gather food, sting, or take care of the young bees). They're freeloaders who gorge themselves on honey all day long, so they're not needed after the queen is fertilized. Those that don't get to mate with the queen bee are forced out of the hive and die within a few days (their wings are often bitten off and food is usually withheld). Those that do mate with the queen die soon thereafter too as their male "part" gets broken off in the queen.
  • The queen mates once and produces thousands of eggs a day for a lifetime because she has a built in "sperm" bank sac that is filled on the day she mates. A properly fertilized queen can decide if she wants to lay male or female eggs.
  • Each bee contributes a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. The colony can collectively fly 55,000 miles and visit more than 2,000 flowers to produce 1 pound of honey. 
  • Honey has been used in many cultures as part of marriage ceremonies, funerals, and other traditions. In Ethiopia, a prospective husband is chosen by how much honey he can offer the bride.
  • Bee venom used to be extracted by putting bees in jars and shaking them. Nowadays an electrified plate is put at a hive entrance to mildly shock a bee so it excretes a drop of venom. The venom is then collected for use in medical creams to treat multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 
  • Pollen is loaded with protein calcium, vitamins A & C, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. One pound of pollen has 100g of protein, the same as a sirloin steak. While you shouldn't eat a pound of pollen all at once, it's great to sprinkle on cereal, smoothies, and salads. I also put our favorite local beekeeper's pollen on ice cream to make it seem "healthier", heehee.
  • Beehives were often used as hiding places for valuables. After all, what thief would willingly put his hand into a hive?

Bees as weapons of war

I found this to be one of the most fascinating sections of the book because I had to idea bees were used as weapons.
  • Beehives were often used as weapons in war. They were thrown at enemies or put into tunnels along with other wild animals by Roman generals. During naval battles, Romans constructed catapults to hurl the beehives onto enemy ships which would often cause sailors to jump overboard.
  • Some plants produce powerful toxins, so honey made from those plants are also toxic and can cause delirium, vomiting, dizziness, etc. Fighters would collect this "crazing honey" and slip it to their enemies to daze them or make them unconscious. 
  • The use of bees faded once modern weapons were created. Most recently, they were used in the Vietnam War. Guerilla fighters detailed how they "trained" bees to attack American troops. The fighters studied the beehives and realized that if one of the four sentry bees was attacked, they would send an alert to the whole beehive to attack. So beehives were "booby trapped" with string, and once tripped, bees would attack American troops causing them to retreat.
  • The American military has been testing bees to use them on the war on drugs. Bees have great smell and can zone in on drugs and weapons. In about 2 hours, a hive can be conditioned to reject flowers (they are rewarded with sugar). So the thought is that they could reject poppies. A world without heroin would be great, right? Bees can also detect explosive chemicals 99% of the time which is better than dogs (and also cheaper).
The book is filled with so many wonderful and often funny beekeeping stories as well. It's worth a read by any beekeeper, those who have ambitions of becoming a beekeeper, or anyone with a fascination for honey and bees.

I was compelled to design a new batch of honey labels after reading the book which are in my shop now.

honey labels
Yellow Honey Bee canning jar stickers
custom honey labels
Customizable Yellow Honey Bee labels
honey bottle labels
Black Dot Honey Bee Canning labels
honey bottle labels
Beehive canning jar and honey bottle labels 
custom honey labels
Custom Beehive Canning jar and bottle stickers

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