Articles / Bee School is Pure Happiness


Bee School is Pure Happiness

Published May 11, 2023

New homes for wayward bees, leaning in to power tools, and harvesting honey

I recently took a small break from Bean School to take the first steps toward my dreamiest of dreams: to grow a field of flowers and have my own beehive in the middle of that field to harvest flower-specific honey. My farming mentor Mike sent me an email a few months ago about beekeeping classes at a local farm here in San Diego, and I’ve never signed up for school so fast. I’m not gonna lie—I was very excited for the bee keeping uniform; I love a jumpsuit.

Photo courtesy Holly Haines

The class at Wild Willow Farm started with the basics of bees—different types (workers, drones, foragers, etc); how the queen gives off different pheromones to tell the bees what to do; how bees spread that scent through a motion called “fanning.” Did you know not all bees live in a hive? There are also solitary bees that sleep inside of flowers, and absolutely nothing you tell me will be more precious than the visual of a bee curling up with a flower petal. 

Globe Mallow Bees (Diadasia diminuta) sleeping in a globe mallow flower. Photo: Instagram/@jmneelyphotography

We built hives—from store-bought kits and from scratch using scrap wood. Someone thought I looked responsible enough to use a table saw, which is hilarious because I still look around for the adult in the room. File that under things I thought I’d never do. The only power tool I use is a stand mixer so this was another new experience that I quite enjoyed. The hive boxes were painted with white, water-based latex paint, which helps reflect the sun and regulate temperature inside of the hive. 

Photos courtesy Holly Haines

The part of the class I looked forward to the most was about hive rescue. I hate the idea of people finding hives on their property and calling an exterminator to kill them when all they need is a little relocation! We can be Zillow for Bees!  There just happened to be a hive that made its home in an old, rotted-out box behind an office at the farm. We moved the dilapidated frames to another part of the farm with more working space.

We gently cut the honeycomb from the old frames and set them into new, rescue frames, fitted with floral wire to help keep the rescued honeycomb in place. The bees were gently catapulted with a jerk motion into the new hive with the queen. Our instructor let us know we were lucky to have come across a group of very chill bees, since they can just as easily be agitated. 

Photo courtesy Holly Haines

We suited up to harvest honey and let me say: It is an absolute thrill to be surrounded by that many bees and feel the vibration of their buzz. The bees at Wild Willow had been feeding on a variety of wild flowers around the Tijuana River Valley, and the flavor was unlike any honey I’d ever had before. Sweet, slightly floral, a little medicinal at the end. We popped pieces of honeycomb in our mouths, still warm from the hive—they usually run between 90-100F from all the bee activity—sucked out the honey, then chewed the wax like gum. 

Photo courtesy Holly Haines

As someone who used to swat bees and run, I never thought I’d opt-in to being around them, let alone wanting my own hive. But I was definitely wrong: Just give me a year or two and I’ll have my own Holly Honey.