Thursday, July 21, 2011

learning beekeeping

Since I've been a little absent here on the blog (come on, 2 posts in June??) I've failed to update quite a bit of things; one of them being beekeeping. If you follow me on Facebook then you already know part of this story.....We fell into it one Saturday evening in May. Actually, our 4 year old got us started. Sounds strange, doesn't it? I'll try and keep the story short.
Layton (said 4 year old) had "parked" his bike next to our bird bath one sunny afternoon. That evening as we were all outside he went to get his bike and came back to daddy and said, "Dad, there are a bunch of bees in the back!"

Daddy went to look and then called Mommy (that would be me.) What happened next?
Chaos ensued! Here were free bees sitting in our backyard. We needed to capture the swarm- and fast. Thankfully my in-laws, who live about 8 miles away, have always wanted to keep bees and have a STOCK of supers (bee boxes) and frames. Someone had given the equipment to them a couple years ago and it had just been sitting unused. I dashed over, got the stuff we could use and raced home.
One problem....we had no foundations to put into the frames, we knew nothing about bee keeping and we had a swarm that was going to leave if we didn't do something quickly. I looked up natural beekeeping on the internet to try and figure out how we could go foundationless. I figured it out and we set up 5 frames in the super. (A super normally takes 10.) We then took the box outside and placed it under the bees. I took a hand broom and wearing my bee veil and gloves (also borrowed from the in-laws) I swept the bees into the box. It worked! We closed the lid a little while later and found ourselves the proud owners of a small colony of bees.

Yay! We did it!

I promptly ordered more bee gear, for the bees and me, and read book upon book about beekeeping.
I'd love to say that the story ended there and that the bees were happy go lucky little girls (and a few boys) that lived happily ever after, but it doesn't. Let me say that there is nothing like jumping head first into something that you know little to nothing about to teach you what NOT to do.
First, make sure you put ALL the frames into the box. I left a hole, or lack of frames, so that the bees would get all the way into the box. Don't do that- don't worry, the bees will find their way down in between them. Leaving a hole like that (the part where no frames were) encourages wild comb to be built. And boy, did the bees ever build it! When I went to open the hive to check on the bees a week later, they had built a bunch of wild comb from the inner lid down and when I removed the lid by pulling it across (#2 lesson learned-always just pull the lid up!) it broke all the wild comb which landed on the bottom of the hive in a heap.
The next day the bees promptly moved out.
Thankfully, they swarmed just over to the trampoline where we caught them again and this time, put them in a correct box.
The bees have stayed happy in that box, so far- and it is July?, so I'm hoping that all is well. I check on the ladies and gents usually about once a week, just to see how everything is going.

Bees in their new, permanent home!

The bottom super is looking as though it's filling up nicely and I'll be adding a western super on top of it in the next month or so.
I'm still learning, still making mistakes and praying that in a year or so I'll at least have the basics mastered. Sitting outside the hive and watching the bees is mesmerizing. I am so thankful that the Lord blessed us with a spring swarm!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the homesteading book in the post below!

This post is linked to the Barn Hop!


magnoliasntea said...

Wow, you are blessed and have an excellent start for beekeeping. We kept bees several years ago, and I enjoyed it a lot. We lost ours due to mites. I suggest you find out if there's a local bee group and attend the monthly meetings. We, also, took a non-credit course at the local university. Hope yours do well.

Carol said...

That is exciting! I've been interested in bees for several years but haven't done anything about it yet. Someday soon though I think it will happen :)

Flo said...

What a timely post. We just experienced our first swarm on of our trees. Unfortunately, the swarm didn't last long. They took off to find their permanent home.

Unknown said...

Ohhh!! I'm so excited for you!! May the Lord bless your hive and you with lots of honey! I tried to catch my friend's Italians that swarmed but the left before she could get back from calling me on the phone. It just wasn't meant to be this year.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an adventure...I can imagine that learning to keep bees is exciting...I'm totally clueless in that regard, but my hubby and kids LOVE honey! I hope all goes well!

The Haphazard Countryman said...

Congratulations on the swarm. I just started keeping bees this year and have 3 hives I have been keeping. So far they are doing great and I have been learning a lot. Bees are a blast, and my three boys have even been joining in.

Keep us posted with what happens.

Bonnie K said...

I'm so impressed. Good job! Nothing like jumping on opportunity. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful adventure.

Susan said...

Wonderful! The Mr and I have been discussing attempting to keep some bees. I look forward to hearing more of your adventures!

Green Bean said...

How exciting! I have always always wanted to keep bees. I'm hoping for next spring - unless of course some bees find us first.

3rnigerians said...

Wow! What an amazing post. I have been thinking about beekeeping for a while and I plan to follow your adventures. Thanks for sharing. Love the post.

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