Sweet Dreams

May 13th, 2008

It’s official, this is the wettest spring on record in our area.  At least for the 100+ years that they’ve been keeping records.  I find that amazing, considering the drought we’ve had the past few years during the summer.  Hopefully this summer won’t be quite as dry.  Tonight we’re due for a heavy rainstorm, but hopefully the warmer weather will set in this week. 

I’ve been busy recently preparing for our new arrivals to Fox Haven… we’ve got bees!  Yesterday I received the packaged bees in the mail (yes, via the post office!) and helped them into their new homes with new queens.  I’m a little late in the season putting the bees in hives, but with as cool and wet as the weather has been, it may work out just right.  Depending upon how they do this year, I hope to have another hive or two next year.   It was pretty fun to do, and was a beautiful 75 degree day for the bees to move into their new homes.

New bees for the hive!

Some more experienced beekeepers do this without protective gear on, but I’m a newbie beekeeper and prefer not to deal with welts on my face or hands right away.   The bees were not really upset at all, but I’m a little clumsy and squished a few by accident.  They weren’t very happy about that, but in each package there’s more than 9,000 bees. I was pleased that very few had died in transit in the packages.

But while installing one of the packages, the bees were a little more agitated for whatever reason, and I worked in a cloud of buzzing bees.  Heck I would be buzzing around too if somebody dumped me unceremoniously in a box!   But this package was much quieter, and the bees settled down fairly quickly.  After getting both hives together with some sugar syrup to feed them, they were pretty quiet and settled in for the evening.

 Queen cage for hive with bees

Here’s a picture of the wooden queen cage with the queen and some workers inside.  Hard to get a picture of just the queen, but she was in there running around.  The white stuff to the right is a gooey candy material that provides some food for the queen, and a block to prevent the other bees from getting in and hurting her.  There’s actually a cork too that must be removed. 

When they ship the bees, they are from different hives than the queen, so they must all get to know each other.  Over the course of a few days they will become familiar with her scent and eventually chew through the candy material and let her out, hopefully accepting her into the hive.

It’s neat to watch them, and in a few days I’ll check and see how they are doing with the new queens.  I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they turn into productive hives.  We probably won’t take honey from them this year to make sure they have enough to get through next winter.  But I may not be able to resist a frame or two in late summer if all goes well.  So begins the journey of keeping bees! 

4 Responses to “Sweet Dreams”

  1. Bees are hard to manage with just one hive because of their nature to swarm once they have established a colony. My parents were once beekeepers with several hundred colonies of them and we were always splitting up strong hives to prevent swarming and to replace those that swarmed anyway. We also got lots of bees through the mail. But it is a hobby that has sweet rewards. Fresh comb honey on some warm biscuits just can’t be beat.

  2. I’ve got two set up and if they do well I hope to have a few more. But hundreds of hives?! That must have been quite an experience growing up.

  3. Well as a teen, I didn’t think beekeeping was very ‘cool’ at all. I hated getting stung and the hours upon hours in the spring and fall extracting barrels of honey. It wasn’t until the last two years that my parents had the business that we finally bought an electric extractor. Up until then, we had a four frame hand crank model. It was a good hobby but not a great business. There wasn’t a lot of money in it unless you had the time to go to craft type fairs where you could sell for higher prices and people were willing to pay them because you were local. Selling in stores and competing against giants like Sue Bee, people weren’t willing to buy local. Ultimately, my parents got out of the business after a decade or so because it interfered to much with their livelihood, farming. They kept all of their supplies and equipment until about ten years ago when scrap metal prices started to rise and then someone broke into the building and stole everything. It was just as well because soon after, trachea mites began to be a problem and more recently Colony Collapse Disorder. They kept two hives as a hobby but they eventually swarmed and left them with empty hive bodies. They and I still have lots of memories though. I should perhaps blog about them sometime.

  4. Your experience would make great stories. As a hobby I hope to keep it fun and interesting, and may sell some honey at local farmer’s markets, etc. I can imagine that if your livelihood depended upon it, the approach would be very different. Funny, I’ve always wanted to do this- and my 7 year old became interested somehow and has been asking for two years. We’ve got an old, small two-frame extractor that was in the family for years, so he’ll have his chance at using it. Very different from what your experience was of course. Perhaps if you can find a few jewels of positive experience in your beekeeping history, I’m sure a lot of folks would enjoy reading it.

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