When I started Bee Venom Therapy on myself, over four years ago, I had great troubles figuring out a nice way to keep the bees at home. Living in an apartment, and then later in an Home Owners Association townhouse, I was unable to keep a bee hive. I tried bee condos, bee houses, nucs (a smaller hive box) on my balcony or small outdoor space but did not find it sustainable. This article is about the tips and tricks I have found to continue BVT at home, without a hive in the backyard. I plan to use a similar set-up for office stings when I start my future Naturopathic Medicine Clinic, as well.
I order my bees online and have them shipped to me. The bees will naturally die in 2-4 weeks and I wanted to offer the bees a good life while they were with me (note: winter bees tend to last 1.5 weeks for me). The way I keep them in my home today was the result of many mistakes and tragic bee loss.
Here are my practical pearls for keeping live bees for Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) that I would like to share with our Apitherapy community to prolong the vitality and lifespan of at home bees for BVT:
- I purchased two mini mesh terrariums for about $12 each: I purchased two small butterfly terrariums (they look like mini laundry hampers). They have a zipper enclosure for easy bee retrieval and feeding. I place the plastic side down to protect the area below. I have two so that I can have a clean one handy for the next shipment of bees. I clean them with hot water from the sink spray nozzle, and a little soap of Hydrogen Peroxide for breaking down bee excrement, if needed. Next, allow it to fully dry before placing newly arrived bees. I do not mix new bees with old bees that I receive.
- With each new box of bees, I place a small plate on the plastic side down with a wetted paper towel (folded in half a few times to fit well on the small plate) and about a teaspoon of honey spread on another piece of wetted paper towel. Bees drown in water and get stuck in honey so I make sure to keep this in mind by keeping the honey layer thin so that the bees can walk on the ridges in the paper towel pattern and not drown. I replace the watered paper towel every 3 days or so for fresh water and add honey as needed.
- I cover the mini terrarium in a tea towel and keep them in a cool, darker place (where there is little temperature variation) such as a closet or shelf away from sunlight. I used to think I was being nice by placing the temporary home by a window and giving them sunlight but I noticed they died quickly thereafter. I had to remember that bees live in a hive and prefer to be cooler (otherwise they form a beard outside the hive) and in the dark.
A recent trick was using comb honey or raw hive materials from the farmer’s market for the bees as a thank you for their service. I got the raw hie materials from a hive I kept that was abandoned and needed cleaning. I scraped all the wax, honey, propolis, etcetera into jars (after extracting a little honey for my family) and I take about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of this mixture and place it on the damp paper towel. It lasts well by adding a fresh paper towel dampened in water nearby to loosen any dried honey for them. I notice that feeding them materials from a real hive has increased their vitality and life span to about 3-3.5 weeks. They also do not drown and are not wet from wet honey like in my previous feeding regimen.
I hope my experience can help any of you that are doing BVT and don’t have a backyard or ability to keep your own bees. I take an empty terrarium with me to place bees in from a local hive one at a time using tweezers (with permission). I modified this bee house trick from a Charles Mraz’s suggestion on how he transported bees using a mason jar, a lid with hole (like a feeding lid), a toilet paper tube, a Kleenex with honey and water on it.
Maria Gossak, ND.
American Apitherapy Society Inc.
Maria is may be reached for questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org