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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Weeks of Beekeeping

Three weeks into beekeeping
We got bees! Finally! After 1.5 years of a  vacant top-bar beehive, perfectly situated among apple, pear, and mulberry trees, our hive is full of active, working, and -we hope- happy honeybees. Fearful that bees would be swarming our yard, making it unsafe for our puppy or chickens to frolic without getting stung, I am happily surprised that my worst-case scenario beekeeping anxieties have been put to rest. Instead, I find our honeybees working earnestly, going to and fro from fruit trees and flowers to their hive and back again. It is memorizing and inspiring. So focused are these bees. So peaceful is it to sit among them and watch.

Our bees arrived three weeks ago, and like any new venture in life, starting to keep bees required that we did some research. The morsels of knowledge that we gained that we'd like to share are all, in our opinions, important and useful for those wishing to possibly take the bee plunge too.

  • First, we decided to get a top-bar beehive. Though there will not be as much honey to extract using this type, it is a model that resembles the natural way a colony of bees would build a hive. In this way, it is said to be a more humane model. 
  • Second, your hive should be placed where it will be in the sun in the morning and early afternoon, but in  the shade in the afternoon and evening. Many people place their hives where there are flowers and trees to pollinate. Be sure your hive is not too close to the road. Bees can get hit by cars too! 
  • Make sure your bees have access to water. We are currently using a Tupperware lid. Place sticks in the water so that the bees have something to land on.
  • Once your bees arrive, check that the queen is still alive. Ours came in a screened box with a candy plug. While the colony adjusts to her scent and accepts her as their queen, they will eat the candy and release her. The hope is that by the time that they eat through the candy, the queen will be accepted and the bees will begin laying eggs and building a comb. 
    • Do not release the queen early. She could die. The other bees may kill her. They should let her out within five days.
  • Many of our bees were dead when we opened the box. Try to order from the most local place possible. Check with local honey producers. They may have swarms to sell.
  • Feed the bees a honey and water mixture twice a week for the first few weeks. You can stop when the bees have established themselves, and there are enough flowers and trees to keep the bees happy and satisfied. 
    • NOTE: it has recently been in the news that the chemicals used in corn production could be the cause for some colonies dying. Some beekeepers use corn syrup instead of honey to feed the bees. Because most corn syrup comes from corn that has been hit with loads of pesticides, this is not a good idea for the health of your buzzing little friends. Thank you, Monsanto!
One week into beekeeping

Check out our video of bees, three weeks in!

Just like our venture into chicken keeping, this adventure has broadened our perspectives and put us one step closer to being in tune with all things good . .  and sweet.  Cliche, yes, but sometimes, lying back in the grass on a sunny day, listening to the slight buzzing of the bees, the coos of the chickens, and the dreams of our dog, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of thankfulness.