Monday, May 2, 2011


This winter my family decided that we wanted to keep bees. The world needs bees and they are disappearing at alarming rates due to pesticides and such. It's really quite scary to think about a world without bees. I don't even want to think about it, really. But I read about it because we started the project like we start most projects--by checking out lots of books and reading up!

We studied and ordered supplies and built hives from some blueprints that we found. The kids painted the hives and helped put together the honey frames. They were especially excited. Then we waited for the spring shipment of bees to arrive from California. It was a long wait, especially for the excited people in the family.

Another beekeeper in our area picked up the bees and drove them five hours to meet us. We met at the park and exchanged packages. The thing is, they'd already stopped and set their bees up, and a few had "gotten away" and were clinging onto the outside of the boxes. We had to drive eight long miles with them inside our car. We were a little worried, but needn't have been. The bees were totally mellow. They just wanted to stick together, and I have to admit, I felt kind of sad for the few that got left behind at the park. They no longer had a hive. My poor little pets!

The bees came in this box. There are about 3,000 of them in there I'm told. I'm not going to count though.

We set up the hives at an orchard in the valley since it's still so cold and flowerless up on our mountain. I find it amazing that the hives can be so close together yet the bees will only go to their own hive. Should be fun bringing the hives home in a month or so when it warms up. They're already reproducing. That means over 6,000 bees in the car. Eep!

It was a little bit scary when the cage was opened up. That's a whole lot of bees!

The queen is kept separate in a little teeny cage. She has to be removed first. Check out the man, no gloves or anything. Before the queen's cage can be placed in the hive a little cork has to be taken out and be replaced with a marshmallow so the bees can eat it and release the queen. With the first queen the cork was really tight and accidentally went inside the cage. It could have crushed the queen, but she escaped--onto my husbands hand!  Amazingly, he removed the cork from the cage, got the queen back into the dinky hole (without being stung) and stuffed the marshmallow in. I still can scarcely believe that fantastic feat!

The rest did not want to come out of the cage, silly bees! They actually had to be shaken and they plopped out in big clumps. We didn't even use smoke to calm them. I think they were tired out from their trip!

While the bees settled down into their hives my husband actually scooped some clumps of stragglers off the ground with his bare hand and put them on their hive. Why? He didn't want them to get left behind. And he's brave--very, very brave. After about fifteen minutes the bees had burrowed down into the frames so we put the lids on, filled their feeders with sugar water, and talked about how the workers look so different from the drones and how amazing it was that no one got stung and how long it would take before they would make honey; cool beekeeping stuff like that.

If you didn't notice, I'm not in any of the pictures. Like I said, I'm the helper and, well, there just wasn't much to help with. I guess pictures are helpful and hey, I was working! I mean, there's got to be a picture book story in here somewhere.

This was our favorite book that we found on beekeeping.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you brave people for helping the poor shrinking bee population. We visit a beekeeper on the north western cost of France('apiculteur') most summers. They have a thriving honey business so we love the 'tastings' and demonstrations they put on. If we ever make it up to your mountain, we'll be expecting a 'degustation de miel', 'K?