Friday, May 7, 2010

Bee-Keeping

Today was BEE-DAY! The day designated when we all went into the country to our friend's lake house, and Adam began the process of moving our new bees home to our house in town. It went very well! The kids went along as a field-trip/educational experience, which it certainly was.

These are the hive boxes as we found them: covered with honeysuckle on top and old ropes, wire, vines and iron pipes laid on top and cascading down the sides. It was a mess:
(Many beekeepers smoke pipes to keep a little smoke around their faces.)
So Adam cleaned it up. He used a little smoke -- some dried grass in a tin can. This makes the bees think there's a forest fire, and they begin to drink up the hive honey, anticipating having to fly away and move. Adam VERY GENTLY removed the trash, and began lifting the lid from the hive stack:
(You can see here the shorter super on top, and the 2 larger boxes beneath.)
Anna was his very diligent and unafraid helper. She enjoyed the bees too. Under the lid, you may see the queen excluder -- a grid/screen that allows the honey bees to get through, but the queen bee can't fit. This way, she doesn't get into the honey and lay eggs in it. When Adam lifted the super, he said it was HEAVY with honey -- probably at least 50 pounds.

Under the top box, or super, were the two main hive boxes. Here Adam begins to pry out (again, gently, slowly) some of the frames. However, when he began to take out these frames, hoping to find the queen on one of them, he instead found that the frames were packed with honey combs -- not running vertically like they should, but horizontally. The bees had left off using the frames as their guides, and had packed the hive with combs. There was no way to "lift" the frames out. He broke off a couple of the slats on the top. This was our one disappointment. We were hoping to find the queen today, and transfer her to one of his new hive boxes, so that the rest of the bees would follow her in. But there's no way to find a queen in all that mass of comb. She will have to move herself....
Once the bees realized that some of their honey was exposed, they gradually rushed to the surface of that box and began frantically drinking the honey, to save it. Finally we could begin to see how many bees there were. Of course, this isn't all the bees in this box, and half of the total bees were out working, gathering nectar in the wild.
So, Adam lifted this active box off, and moved on down to the very bottom box. It was totally empty: no bees, no comb, no nothing. The bees had abandoned it, and all moved into the upper box together. Bees tend to like to move up in the hive.

So, Adam came up with a plan. He decided to remove the bottom, unused box, which was dry-rotted anyway. He placed the populated box on the bottom, and placed his nice, empty red box (which has frames with foundation combs in it) on top of it. This way, in the next week, the queen and the bees will move up into his red box. The queen will like having lots off space to lay eggs, and the bees will have more room to work. Then, next week, we'll return, check to make sure the queen has moved herself into the red box (those frames will lift out easily, and Adam will be able to spot her), discard the old bottom box, and take the bees home. Adam has another nice box, so the bees will have a stack of two.
Doesn't it look great already!

Just a note: Adam is only beginning to keep bees, but he's done a lot of research on the subject. He prefers to be a gentle beekeeper who doesn't bash his bees around, and therefore doesn't need protective clothing. We also know from talking with the previous bee owner that these are very gentle, docile Italian honey bees, so we felt reasonably safe with them, as long as we did not swat at them or aggravate them. Four of us stood there the entire time, and we received not a single sting.

I must say, Adam thoroughly enjoyed himself. I think he's found a hobby that he will love. We hope to sell honey and beeswax, and eventually beeswax products, Lord willing. We're amazed at the intricacy and order of the creation God has made, even in a neglected, dilapidated beehive.

1 comment:

  1. oh how COOL!! I can't WAIT to buy some of your yummy honey and honeycomb, smack smack! :) Good luck with your bees.

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