Friday, January 22, 2016

To Bee or not To Bee, that is the beekeepers question.

I became an accidental beekeeper when a young man abandoned two bee hives that he had put at the pond 3 years earlier. Multiple phone calls to his home went unanswered so one day I decided I now owned two bee hives. My 'Honey Man, Dan' inspected the hives and found one was dead but the other alive and stinging. That fall Dan helped me extract 7 1/2 gallons of honey and I was on a honey high! I passed out honey filled jars right and left, after all, the bees were in their hive replenishing it, right?

Wrong, when spring came around, I found a dead hive, AAUUGGGHHHH!!! What made me the most sad, was that I think they starved to death, I did not leave them enough honey stores to make it over the winter. But Dan helped me restock the hive and the bees were busy all summer making honey, right?

Wrong, the bees swarmed, took their queen and left the hive en-mass with only a few fat lazy drones to hold down the fort. Boy, this bee keeping isn't as easy as I thought! I did a blog post on 
  • Redneck honey extracting. in July 2013 if you wish to refresh your memory. Then I did a lot of thinking about raising bees. Bruce's 2nd cousin, Todd, was really interested in top bar bee hives and sent me some information.

Todd and Mollie 

So two years ago, Rosanne, Sue and I built some top bar bee hives...

....two for me, one for Rosanne and a trap hive for Sue. (So far we haven't trapped any bees!)

Bruce and I set up the hives at the pond and I installed two packages of bees......

.....I was thrilled to see my bees building their free form comb!

With 14 acres of trees, bushes and plants, it should have been Utopia, but it didn't seem to be. By fall a check of the hives showed few honey stores for winter, Bruce and I brought them home and I tried feeding them fondant to get them through the winter, it did not work, by mid winter I had two dead hives.

I was not going to be deterred that easy, I found another supplier and last May picked up two packages of bees in Sioux City and again, installed them in the hives. They took off going great guns, they had a leg up on the previous hives because the comb was already built, all they had to do was lay eggs and fill the honey stores.

They did well all summer but by fall I could see that one hive was failing and the other did not have a lot of honey stores so I started feeding sugar water. I lost one hive but hoped to save the other one so when it was too cold for sugar water, I made sugar bricks and installed them inside the hive and on top of the bars.

I can only open the hive for inspection when it's 40 or above and one day last week it reached the magic temperature. I took another pan of sugar bricks, tentatively pushed away the hay bales, swept the snow away and raised the lid. I was pleased to see some live bees feeding on the remaining sugar bricks. I quickly laid down some more newspaper but not before one cheeky bee flew out and stung me in the neck. I hated it, it hurt her a lot more than me, she would die. I scraped out the pan of sugar and closed everything back up, replacing the hay bales. 

I won't know until spring whether I was successful or not. I just received an email from my 'bee guy' that he is taking orders for 2016 bees packages. He said there is a bee shortage and that he is getting 30% less this year so if we are interested, we need to get our orders and down payment in now.

I'm in a quandary, to Bee or not to Bee?

1 comment:

  1. Please beeeeee !!!! I love your bee stories, it would be a shame for you not to keep pursuing this passion.