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Monday, April 27, 2009

My sister-in-law's book launches today

Today my sister-in-law, Susan Brackney, releases her newest book Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet. Susan, a freelance writer, has been a hobby apiarist since 2003 and has written extensively on honeybees and beekeeping for The New York Times, Plenty magazine, and Hobby Farms magazine among others.

Susan took a moment out of her busy book release schedule to answer a few questions about beekeeping.

How did you become interested in beekeeping?

I knew they were running out of places to live -- lots of their natural habitat has been turned into subdivisions with such ironic names as "Shady Woods Estates" or "Tall Oaks Manor." So, even though it wouldn't even make a dent in the problem, I thought it would be good to give at least one honey bee colony a nice place to live. Also, I knew they would be really good for my garden, and having a little fresh honey once in a while would be neat, too.

What has surprised you the most about your hobby/part-time job?

That people across the board think beekeeping is mysterious and daring to such a great degree. Once you get into it, you realize it isn't necessarily either one of those.

What is the oddest fact about bees?

Not that you'd want to, but the average adult typically can sustain up to 10 stings per pound of body weight without dying. Kids and pets are a different story though.

Some others I like: Some historical records suggest Alexander the Great was buried in a honey-filled coffin.

Applied directly to the wound, a tincture of opium was one common bee sting remedy in England during the 1800s.

What might the general public not know about bees that you think they should?

Yellow jackets are all too often mistaken for honey bees. I really wish people would take the time to distinguish the two and then stop blaming honey bees for what is usually the aggressive and boorish behavior of yellow jackets.

If someone is interested in beekeeping as a hobby, how much time and money would they have to invest to get started?

Beekeeping has tons of gadgets, and, if you generally like buying gadgets, you could end up sinking a thousand bucks or more, but that really isn't necessary. At the bare minimum, the would-be beekeeper needs the boxes or "supers" and frames which fit those supers to make up their beehive. They need a bee smoker, veil, and gloves. Maybe a full set of coveralls, if that would make them more comfortable. And then you need bees. I think you could get started for, at the most, $200 to $250.

Could you guesstimate how many times you have been stung?

Ha! Well, I recall being stung 13 times in one afternoon. That sucked. It was soon after I began keeping bees. I was making some mistakes, and the bees were trying to let me know it. Now, knock on wood, I get stung maybe once a year.

Susan Brackney is also the author of The Lost Soul Companion, The Not-So-Lost Soul Companion, and The Insatiable Gardener's Guide.


gracie o said...

i totally want to get a copy for my bff's bridal shower (she wanted to be a beekeeper)! would it be possible to get a signed copy??? (you can say no if it'll be too difficult)

Raina said...

Shouldn't be a problem. Contact her here for the best way to go about it and tell her you're a friend of mine:

House of Slappy said...

Regrettably, this has been in the news a lot over the past few years. I'm looking forward to reading this book and sharing with friends. Thanks for posting, Raina.

hello gorgeous said...

We have a friend who has kept bees; however, they all died due to that dreadful colony collapse disease which really threatens to harm worldwide bee populations as I understand it (which is to say, very little).

Quick bee story: I was walking through the yard one day and there were yellow jackets on the lawn, in the clover. I thought, "I wonder if one of those bees could fly up my pants leg?"

Next thing I know I am stripping my pants off in the driveway and, yes, my underwear come off in my frenzy to stop getting stung and get the bee out of my pants.

Makes me think having a "bee in your bonnet" at one time was a very bad thing.

g. said...

That is really cool. Love to find people who have a passion like that. Great post!

nkp said...

Looks like the smarts run on all sides of your family. What a fascinating hobby. We were just at a wedding this weekend where the father of the bride, a close family friend, is a beekeeper and the couple gave guests little jars of honey as favors.

Congratulations on the release!

erin@designcrisis said...

Holy crap, I've never been stung by a bee and it would take A LOT for me to start keeping them for fun. I totes admire SIL for her bravery. And I also love me some fresh honey.

pillow mint said...

I just heard the other day that they found a cure for what was killing all the honey bees!
Cool fact: No one has figured out how to recreate honey in a lab. Honey is always (and only) made by bees!

David said...

I will be reading this. NPR mentions the colony collapses every so often, and from what I've read if the bees go we're in big trouble. Yay for sister-in-law!

only a movie said...

Wow, this is so cool and interesting. I may have a gander during my summer reading extravaganza.

Not that cool? Last summer, I had a stinging insect colony living in my bedroom wall. The exterminator dude didn't tell us what sort it was (we didn't get close enough to see)
But is was loud, and a little creepy.

Kate said...

I love the word apiarist.
Your sister in law is one great lady, and her book jacket is lovely.
Happy Anniversary too.

Robin said...

Bee keeping fascinates me; I am tempted to take up the hobby but I don't think my little city balcony is the right environment. I will have to just read the book and buy more local honey. Love the fact in the comment above that honey cannot be replicated in a lab. Those bees have job security! Now if we could only stop whatever is killing them...

sherri said...

very interesting. beekeeping has always intrigued me. cool sis-in-law you've got there.

matt said...

Ok, I sorta want my own bee colony now.

My favorite part of this post is where your SIL gets mad at people for not recognizing the difference between honey bees and yellow jackets. It's pretty cute how protective she is of her little guys.

What an awesome, interesting family you have!

karly / said...