Well this summer is just flying by. It was with a bit of disbelief that I realized July ended already- Where did it go??
In the midst of soccer games, campfires, work, lawn projects and gardening- we are still keeping up with the new bee hives. They’ve been busy as, well, bees in their hives. We did a check for varroa mites in mid-July and were delighted to find no sign of infestation. For this, we used corrugated grid boards coated in petroleum jelly slid into the groves in bottom board. Lots of pollen and bee debris, but no sign of mites yet!
We did a quick check of the supers last week and saw that they have steadily made their way to the top frames, filling them in with gorgeous golden honey!!! The plan is to add another layer of supers to the hives this week while we finish up work on the honey extractor.
Today, We installed bees into our first hives…what an incredible experience!!!
The call came to pick up our nucs (nucleus colony) last week, so we headed out early Friday morning to meet a local beekeeper/supplier. There in his bee yard I watched, feet frozen in place, as he opened a nuc box to show us the bees inside. I didn’t even think to bring my bee suit, but realized in seconds that he didn’t need one either as the bees paid no attention to us at all. Nucs closed back up, we loaded our two colonies of Italian carniolan hybrid bees and headed for the hives. Because of a sudden cold snap with frosts over the weekend, our bee guy recommended we wait to do the transfer until the freeze danger had passed in order to not cause damage to our new bees.
It was a long, impatient weekend, but the weather finally broke and we donned our new suits and veils, lit the smoker, and headed to the hives.
I can hardly describe how surreal it felt when we opened up those nucs and very slowly started moving each frame covered in hundreds, maybe thousands, of bees into the new hive bodies! As I looked down at my gloves covered in bees, I realized that while yes I was nervous I wasn’t actually afraid.. Using a small hand tool to grip each frame, we would lift it up, give it a quick look to try and spot a queen, and gently lower it into the hive body. We didn’t find the queens, but the frames looked good and filled with brood cells like described in many beekeeping books. I had to pause a few times when the buzzing got exceptionally loud just to check that the bees I saw in front of my face were still on the outside of my veil…. Phew!!!!!
I cannot stress enough how good it felt to have a good quality veil between me and the bees. I opted for the jacket and veil that zips and velcros onto the jacket. I know it’s going to happen, but I am happy to report that I didn’t get stung once! Unfortunately, my fellow beekeeper got stung once- but we figure that was still pretty amazing for our first time out.
I am so excited to begin this new adventure!
We’re still seeing snow here, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking the plunge into spring and placing an order for our first colonies of honey bees! They’ll be ready to pick up and install at the end of May, which means I am just buzzing around (hardy har har) getting ready to order hives, suits, and all the other necessary equipment to get started. There is much to learn and research before diving into a project such as beekeeping, and I’ve written an article about the basics for the newest issue of From Scratch Magazine. (“The Buzz on Beekeeping”, page 78.) Check it out- I would love to know what you think of it, and the magazine in general!
It is quite an honor for me to be included along with this group of contributors, all of whom are full of knowledge on all topics of homesteading and living sustainably.
If you are looking for a great source for homesteading information to help with your gardening, chicken keeping, crafting, repurposing projects- be sure to check out From Scratch Magazine.
The first issue featured my article on alpacas, and next week you can read all about another venture I am preparing to get started in, along with helpful information on CSA’s and the history of homesteading.
The magazine features a lot of interesting folks who really know their stuff. “Bee” sure to check it out!
So now that we have successfully added a flock of laying hens to our home ( 7 eggs today- despite the zero degree weather we have been having all week!!) I have this next crazy little idea brewing: beekeeping.
I spent the morning with my father attending a beekeeping lecture at the local Audubon nature center, a true local gem. Two very knowledgable local beekeepers shared their insights and much helpful information on how to get started.
With visions of glorious bottles of gleaming golden honey to share and enjoy (and maybe even sell), I am gathering bee books and searching the Internet to garner information on this fascinating practice of stewardship. Meanwhile, having never actually been stung before, I am asking everyone I know just exactly HOW MUCH does it hurt?? I’m not so excited about that prospect…
There’s much research to be done yet, but with a little luck and perseverance, we may just be able to add beekeeping to our list of skills around here, and that would certainly be something to be excited about.