Buzz is the Word

For Easter Hair Hunt, I learned quite a bit about beekeeping. One of the characters in this story is a beekeeper at a historic estate. Hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt there when she discovers a body in a bunny suit out on the manicured lawn.

Bees are not my favorite creature but they play an important role in agriculture. Many of the world’s most common food crops require pollination by honeybees. On their foraging flights, the female worker bees collect nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive. The nectar is mixed with enzymes from their gut and then dehydrated into honey. Pollen, containing proteins and amino acids, becomes the “bee bread” used to feed growing larvae and the queen.


A virgin queen will mate with up to eighty male drones. She uses this sperm for the rest of her five-to-six year lifespan, laying eggs along the way. A hive can raise a new queen by feeding a substance named royal jelly to a larvae.

When the hive gets large enough, usually in the spring, the older queen leaves with half the worker bee population. The others cluster in a swarm outside while their scouts look for a new location. When the scout bees find a suitable home, they’ll return to the cluster and perform a waggle dance to direct the swarm to the new hive. The first worker bees on the premises gather at the entrance and release a pheromone to direct the rest of the bees into the new hive. This pheromone resembles the scent of lemongrass oil.

While the bees wait in a cluster for the scouts to return, beekeepers can use a swarm box to catch them. It’s baited with honey combs and lemongrass oil. The bees are docile at this time, because they have no brood to protect and they have gorged on honey to sustain them for the flight. The beekeeper will transfer the swarm into a nucleus box where they can establish themselves before being moved to a hive.

The beekeeper uses a smoker to tame the bees while he’s working with them. Smoke makes honeybees believe there may be a wildfire nearby. They’ll eat as much honey as they can in preparation for a potential move. This full stomach makes them less likely to sting due to the physical difficulty in tipping their abdomens up.

Smoke also masks the alarm pheromone given off by guard bees. This pheromone smells like banana candy, so if you smell bananas in your hive, it’s time for another puff of smoke. Similarly, beekeepers shouldn’t eat bananas before working with a hive, since it may be detected as an alarm pheromone. My suggestion is not to eat bananas before taking a stroll in the woods.

Bees tend to attack the face of mammals, hence the veiled hood as part of the beekeeper’s gear. Bees have carbon dioxide receptors on their antennae, which allow them to detect our exhalations. They may respond aggressively. This ability developed to protect them against bears. Also, if you’re afraid, they can sense it because you’ll breathe more rapidly.

Beekeeper tasks include making sure the bees have enough food, water and ventilation. They need to make sure weaker hives aren’t been preyed upon by stronger hives. Bees also need to be checked for diseases and pests. This job requires year-round attention to the bees in their care.

Bee populations are threatened by pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutritional deficits, air pollution, climate change, diseases and parasitic mites, plus robbers such as bears and bees from other colonies. Ecological farming is the key to protecting the bees. This practice restores soil nutrients, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids use of pesticides and fertilizers.

I am not a fan of bees of any kind, including wasps and bumblebees and hornets. True, the honeybees play an important role in our agriculture and honey production, but I’d rather steer clear of them. That includes hollow tree trunks and other potential hiding places in the woods.

Do you ever think about the role of bees in the honey you use at home? 

Research for EASTER HAIR HUNT #cozymystery involved learning about honeybees and beekeeping. Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the field of beekeeping. This information is based on my understanding of the material I read.


Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries 

An Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor leads hairstylist Marla Vail to discover more than just dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. Marla and her husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail, make an eggcellent team. He knows Marla finds solving mysteries and hare-raising adventures to be irresistible, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can Marla pull a rabbit out of her hat and crack the case of the body in the bunny suit? Recipes Included! 


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