Here is a tale of getting a buzz, by bees, on my birthday. It was exhilarating and I’ll admit, a little scary, being surrounded by honeybees in Southwest Ranches near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
I Am Your Queen
Peering through the veil covering my face, I noticed hundreds of bees above our heads.
“Is that a swarm?” I asked my host Mr. Guillermo Leon.
“Yes, they are looking for their queen,” he replied while inspecting a bee hive in the apiary.
“Maybe they’re looking for me!” I exclaimed. After all, it was my birthday and in the middle of a swarm, I felt like the queen bee.
My birthday is May 1 which is May Day. It is either a holiday celebrating spring or honoring workers. I grew up observing the former and made May Day baskets, filled them with flowers and left them on the neighbors’ doorsteps. Because of this, I have always associated my birthday with flowers.
Bee Adventure Workshop: An Airbnb Experience
This year, I wanted to do something to create a lot of “buzz” and have a “bee”-autifully unique experience. Looking over Airbnb Experience options, I chose the Bee Adventure Workshop with Indian Ridge 12, LLC (Healthier to Go) in Southwest Ranches in Broward County.
Airbnb Experiences are led by local hosts who share their passions, hobbies, or expertise with guests. These experiences range from an hour to a full day and usually do not involve overnight accommodations. These experiences bring a personal perspective and typically cannot be found in tourist publications.
Mr. Guillermo Leon was my host and he and his wife, Maria Rivas, attended the beekeeping workshop at Florida International University about three years ago. Since then, they maintain an apiary on their property and collect and sell honey and other products. Through Airbnb Experiences, they open their apiary to visitors curious in the life of bees or interested in beekeeping.
Don’t Forget Your Health Insurance Policy
The workshop accommodates up to four people but I was the sole registrant. I am pretty sure this was the first time signing a liability waiver asking for my health insurance provider and policy number.
“Have you ever been stung by a bee?” Mr. Leon asked. One of the participation requirements is you must be certain you do not have any bee allergies.
The answer was, “yes,” and the most significant incident happened when I was a teenager pulling weeds around our barn. I reached my hand into a yellowjacket nest and was stung (only) five times. My arm swelled up to my elbow but I did not require medical attention.
I was fitted with a white beekeeping jacket with a built-in veil (head covering) and a pair of white beekeeping gloves which went up to my elbows. Beekeeping pants were optional and because I wore jeans which covered my ankles, I passed.
Prior to visiting the beehives, we discussed the role of bees as important pollinators and the structure of a bee colony. Learning this helped me understand what I was seeing when visiting the hives.
The Role of Bees
The queen bee is mighty and larger than the other bees. She and between 20,000 and 50,000 worker bees, all female, serve her and the hive. The queen has a lifespan of three to five years and can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. Some worker bees act as nurses to the brood (the stages of egg, larva and pupa), while others have roles as comb building, foraging pollen, packing pollen, cleaning, and guarding. The lifespan of an active worker bee is four to six weeks. A bee colony could have a few hundred drones who have the sole role of mating with a queen from another colony and have a lifespan of three to four months.
This is when I learned about bee swarms, never thinking I would witness one later in the morning. A swarm occurs when a queen leaves her hive to begin another colony and the worker bees and drones follow her. Usually, she temporarily relocates on a nearby tree, or in the case I witnessed, a fence, until a new location is found by the scout (worker) bees.
My role when we visited the hives was to pump the smoker, a canister with burning and smoking woodchips, under the hive and at the top to calm the bees. While bees buzzed around us, Mr. Leon pulled the hives apart and we inspected the bee-covered frames. Some had honey and others contained the brood. Legs of several bees carried dots of yellowish-white pollen and I saw one with bright orange pollen. Frames thick with honeycomb were removed and placed in a refrigerator. Ms. Rivas will extract the honey later.
As for the swarm of bees, we watched as the colony grew into what looked like a thick stalactite around a fence post. After puffing smoke on the colony, Mr. Leon took a clip designed to safely capture the queen bee yet big enough to let the others out and combed through the group. He captured the queen and relocated her to a box. We watched as hundreds of bees followed her into the box where her fate will be determined by the farm’s top Queen Bee, Ms. Rivas.
This un-bee-lievable experience included a bit of technology. Mr. Leon is a software engineer and rather than setting up a table by the side of the road to sell honey and other products, he designed a refrigerated vending-type machine to dispense jars of raw honey, pollen, royal jelly and other products. Customers can purchase products 24 hours a day, cash or credit. Through an app, Mr. Leon is notified of every sale and can replenish the inventory.
My experience was fantastic. I will be buzzing about it for much longer than a drone’s life.
Nuts & Bolts About the Bee Adventure Workshop
Bee Adventure Workshop and Packaged Honey Vending Machine at Indian Ridge 12, LLC (Healthier to Go)
5010 SW 166th Ave.
Southwest Ranches, Fla. 33331
Tel: (954) 681-9992
I booked my workshop through Airbnb.com. Use this link to the Airbnb Experience or Search for “Bee Adventure Workshop” with “Guillermo J.” in Florida. The two-hour experience is $80 per person, limited to four people, and offered twice a day. Beekeeping jackets with veil, pants (optional), and gloves are provided. The experience will be postponed due to inclement weather or when temperatures are cooler than 60 degrees F.
Where to Stay
Stay on the property in a private room accommodating 2 guests with 2 beds and private bath. The room is bookable through Airbnb.com, look for “Adorable-Neat-Quiet-Southwest Ranches-Weston” and Superhost “Guillermo J.”
New to Airbnb? Save!
Note: New to Airbnb? Use my Airbnb link to sign up and get $40 off your home booking. Even better, receive $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more!
Additional Photos on Flickr
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