Saturday, August 30, 2008

Checking on the bees.....


We have two hives of bees. This was a new venture for us last year. DH is the beekeeper, but I do have a genuine interest in them and their incredible value to the farm. We started with a borrowed hive last year. Friends had a hive that needed a home once it was moved from the apple orchard and we were happy to have it here for a season. This spring, before they opened it, they moved it to a new location and we put up our own hives. We purchased all the parts for two hives. They needed to be put together and painted. I can remember growing up bee hives were always white. Now it is recommended to paint them darker colors. We chose the green to match the roof of our house.

We then purchased 12,000 bees for each hive in late spring and fed them a sugar water syrup in a feeder can enclosed in the hive until their was enough natural food source for them to survive on. They have been busy ever since. We see them everywhere! My flower gardens and vegetable gardens have done wonderful and I know so much of it is because of the bees.


squash blossom with busy bees hard at work


The first or bottom box contains wooden frames that hold honey comb that are spaced in such a way that the bees cannot fix them together. We can remove them to examine them without hurting the bees. This is the hive body. It is about 9 1/2 " deep and is used mostly as two units, for the brood nest. This gives the queen space to lay many eggs which makes the resulting colony very strong.
10 foundations in a super

The second super or box is where the bees make honey that they will store and live on this winter. Our bees, so far are doing a great job of this. We have a wonderful supply of clover, goldenrod, and of course, garden produce that the bees have been working and the honey combs show this.

Foundation covered with bees and honey comb full of capped honey

The third super has smaller foundations in it. We added this two weeks ago. We won't check it for another month or so. This will be where the bees will store honey when the bottom two supers are full. This is honey that we could extract for ourselves should their be any. We did not expect to harvest honey for ourselves this year. That's generally the rule of the thumb the first year. Our bees are doing so well, they may surprise us.


small foundations we added to the third super for extra honey harvest

Smoking the bees


As a rule, DH checks the bees and does whatever is necessary. I watch from a distance. I'm not terribly afraid of them but I have a healthy respect for thousands of bees swarming around my head! He really loves this and wanted to share the experience with me so I agreed to put on a marshmallow suit and check it out.

To open the hives, he removes the cover and he uses a smoker which has baling twine and newspaper in it. The little bellows keep the fire going and creates the smoke. The smoke stimulates the bees to gorge themselves on honey and therefore keep them from stinging us. We open one hive at a time.

Opening the hive


Steve isn't as apprehensive as I am and doesn't normally use his face protection. I on the other hand, went in with full outfit from head to toe. I wasn't taking any chances :)

Not taking any chances!

It was a great experience and I'm sure I'll participate again now that I know what to expect. We have been very fortunate that our bees have done so well and we have not have problems with varroa mites , which are one of the major killers of bee colonies. Keeping strong colonies diesease free and well fed seems to be the best prevention. Hopefully we can keep doing that.

6 comments:

Joanne said...

Wow, this is so neat! Thank you for showing me, close up, what it's like to keep bees! It is something I've always thought looked interesting but have lacked the resources to try on my own. How special to get the chance to see it via your farm blog!

Also thank you for such kind comments on my blog. Sometimes it is just reassuring to know that there are other folks out there who feel the same way I do...(about a lost dog, a fight on the street, whatever!)

Pamela said...

This is so interesting. I think I've read it about three times. I have always wondered what was inside those boxes.

Please share more and more and more with us. It is fascinating!

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threecollie said...

What a great post! Thank you so much for going out there, braving the bees, and taking photos to share. There are almost no honey bees around here, so we have to put up with nasty little ground bees for pollination. They do a good job but they live in the lawn and the are vicious!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Great post, we had to quit raising bees, because of the bears. Your's look great. :)

Deb said...

joanne,
your welcome :) We are beginners - and have a lot to learn but I'm happy to share it.

pamela,
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Like you, I was curious about what was inside and I knew the only way I was going to find out was to see for myself :) I'm glad I did.

threecollie,
Thank you amd your welcome :) The lack of wild honey bees was one of the reasons we decided to try our hand at it and your right, those ground bees are horrible When Tyler was little, he had an allergic reaction from being stung several times, stepping in a ground hive. It was terrible - thankfully the paramedics were here quickly and he was fine.
I haven't come across any for quite some time -

nita,
Thanks - that's one thing we worry about because our hives are somewhat secluded but so far, knock on wood, we've been lucky. Our neighbor saw a bear once since we've been here but it detoured around us and headed for the swamp. Hope he stays there!!