Saturday, June 18, 2011

We Have Bees! Beekeeping 101

beekeeping 101
I've had my hive all set up. My equipment ready. And no bees. Turns out this was a challenging year to start beekeeping. Our spring has been wet, gloomy and late. Bees were in short supply. I'd all but given up. And then.

Thursday afternoon I got an email from a gentlemen in our local beekeeping club. He had an extra nucleus hive. Yippee! I contacted him immediately and we had a source of bees.

Last night, at 10:00 pm, we drove out to his place to get our girls. Me, Mr. Peculiar and two of our kids on a late night adventure. Going to the house of someone we've never met to buy a box of bees.

Ed, the man who kindly sold us the bees, drove up shortly after we'd gotten there. He'd just picked up the bees from the breeder (do you call it a breeder? I have no idea.) Anyway when he opened the back of his truck a bee immediately flew out and landed on my shirt. Whoo boy. I stood nice and still, calm as can be, until she flew away.

Because here's the thing. I have *no idea* whether or not I am allergic to bees. I am allergic to many other things so it is plausible that I could also be allergic to bees. And, as far as I know, in nearly forty years, I've never been stung.

There was the one time, in college, when I was stung behind the ear by something. But it never really swelled and so I doubt it was a honey bee.

Now I've talked to my allergist and testing is apparently controversial. There are quite a few false positives when testing for bee sting allergies. And so he suggested I wait, get stung and see what happens. As such I have benadryl and epinephrine at home in case any horrific reactions occur.

So back to the bees. They arrived in a BUZZING cardboard box. Cardboard. And the lid was not taped to boot. We taped that lid before placing it in the car. Indeed we did. And then I drove 45 miles per hour all the way home. Cars behind me were perturbed. I did not care.

When we got home we put the box next to the hive and left it overnight. My initial plan was to open the entrance this morning and let the bees stay in the box and acclimate to their new surroundings. However this morning it was looking like rain. I was nervous to leave them in the waxed cardboard. And yet I had to go to work.

So, at 6:00 am, I suited up and went about transferring the bees to the hive. The advantage of working the bees so early in the morning? Most of the neighbors are still asleep and therefore aren't yet alerted the the presence of the hive.

Now keep in mind I am a total novice here. And my family was not interested in being out with me. I was on my own (my son came out and took a few pictures before I opened the hive and then hid back in the house).

Given my unknown allergies I went with a full suit, gloves and boots (check out the fashion statement of cowboy boots and bee suit. Fancy!)

I lit my smoker which worked on the first try. Hooray! I used pine bedding material as fuel. It worked nicely though burned quickly and might not have lasted for a full hive inspection.

Then I went for it. I smoked them lightly and opened the box. The bees were wonderfully cooperative. They buzzed around a bit but not too much. I looked for but didn't see the queen. There were a couple of bees that were larger than the rest but I wasn't quite sure.

I placed the frames in a deep super, added additional frames, the interior cover, a feeder with a 1:1 sugar solution and the outer cover. There were only a handful of bees left in the nuc box so I simply placed that in front of the hive. Happily those bees began to move inside.

There were a few dead bees on the bottom of the nuc box and one larger than the others. I really hope that wasn't the queen. And now I wait.

I must wait a week before going in to check on the hive's progress. Hopefully a member of the beekeeping club will open the hive with me and help me assess it's health. *Fingers crossed* for a happy healthy productive queen.

In the meantime I need a name for the hive. Any suggestions?


Oh yes -- and Mr. Peculiar says this should be the song of the day.


Anonymous said...

All Right! doing a HAPPY dance for you!
go bee keeping Mamma~!

Jordan said...

congratulations!! woo hoo!! I hope your queen is alive and well.

shari said...

Exciting!! My uncle kept bees... as for allergies, I was stung several times with no real reaction, and then a couple years ago, I was stung and had a big reaction. Apparently, not all bees are the same, so you can get stung by one kind and have no reaction, then another and have a big reaction. My friend said the same thing, as she's been stung by a few bees, too. So you never know. Keep that Epi-pen ready!

You should read Chalice, by Robin McKinley.... it's about a beekeeper. I loved it. The Secret Life of Bees is also a good book. Can't remember the name of the author, though. You're amongst an illustrious group of people now! :-)