Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day One: The First Day of Beekeeping

Yesterday, I became a beekeeper in earnest. I've read books, talked to beekeepers, monitored email lists, and perused websites. But on April 29th it finally occurred: I picked up my bees and installed them in my two hives.

The day started normal enough, teaching my Political and Social Thought class at 8:50a.m. After class, I took a 45 minute drive down to Houston, Minnesota to pick up my two packages from B & B Honey Farm. It was a pretty uneventful drive except for the last mile or so. B & B is located on a narrow, winding, dirt road with trees and gullies on each side. I "white-knuckled" the last mile in the pick-up, just hoping I wouldn't run into another vehicle coming the other way.

I was the only customer at B & B's when I got there but they still seemed like they were scrambling. Houston had an inch or so of snow two days before. While the snow had melted, they must have been backed up filling their orders.

The man who waited on me was helpful and kind, giving me a "mini-lesson" in package installation and carrying the packages right to the pick-up. I panicked a bit when I discovered that the queen cages were simply plugged with corks-- no candy. I hadn't anticipated this eventuality and, while the bees seemed "enamored" with their queens, I was really concerned about directly releasing the queen into the hive.

I left B & B, not without having a near collision with another motorist on that dirt road. I could just imagine the accident report..."minor neck injuries and a thousand stings from the angry bees let loose in the cab."

When I got home, I placed the packages on the back porch, sprayed them with sugar water and waited for Monta to return from work to take some photos of the installation. In the meantime, I got all my tools, implements, syrups, etc. I had prepared and set up in "Beelandia".

I installed the first package in the top bar hive (Metpropolis). The feeder baggie and pollen paddie were already placed in the hive. I was unbelievably calm opening the package, extracting the queen cage, and then shaking the bees into the hive. I did have an adrenalin "high" working with this first package, though, which might have caused me to be a little too fast in my movements. One bee got caught in my hair and promptly stung me on the side of the head. I believe another got caught between my fingers and let me know that she was there with another sting. I calmly finished closing up "Metpropolis", took a deep breath, and assessed my wounds.

I am happy to report absolutely no allergic reactions to the stings. The stings burned for about 15 minutes with no swelling or long term pain.

I went through the same process, this time with the Langstroth hive, "Bee Glad for the Hum has no ending...". This time things went much smoother, I took it slower, and there were no stings at all.

After Monta went back to work, I spent an hour or so simply watching the bees behavior, as they began the process of adjusting to their new digs. I also began my adjustment to them as well. As if to prove Walter Brennan right (watch the movie "To Have or Have Not"), I found out that dead bees can truly sting, after I got on my hands and knees to observe the behavior at the entrance to "Bee Glad...". When I tried to observe the entrance of "Metpropolis" a little too close, I also discovered that guard bees can be pretty direct in their attacks. (A sting right above the eye!) In all, though, it was an exhilarating experience I will never forget. I look forward to many similar experiences.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bees Come Today

I will be picking up two packages of bees this morning from B & B Honey Farm in Houston Minnesota. More about the installation later!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Beelandia's Borders Secured

With the snow and rain ending, Monta, Eli (our youngest), and I were able to finish 90% of the fence around our apiary-garden (affectionately named "Beelandia"). The photo above, facing southward, gives you a nice view of the apiary-garden's geography. Almost in the middle of the photo, you can see the finished "Metpropolis", our Kenyan top bar hive that Monta built using the plans provided by Phil Chandler. To the right and slightly behind it, there are some cinder blocks which will serve as the substructure for a Langstroth hive which we have named "Bee Glad... For the Hum Has No Ending." A "mad mixture" of "bee plants" will be located in the area in the foreground.

The second photo shows the fence from the street, facing northeast. The fence is high enough that the bees should not bother anyone walking passed the house, while hiding the hives from curious eyes.

In the next week, I will be tilling the soil a bit (still too early to plant much) and then we will all put the finishing touches on the "border" fence. It still looks like a week or two before I can install the bees. I hope to remain patient.

For further information about the fence, go and read Monta's blog.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More on the Bee Fence

Monta gives a few details on the current state of our backyard apiary in her blog: Always Swimming Upstream. Also read this as well.