- This page has been set up to share the experiences of my first year in beekeeping. I welcome any edits, comments and advise from the membership at large that will help me become a successful beekeeper.
Why beekeeping? Good question! During the summer of 2010, I had a part-time fruit and vegetable stand at a few local markets. I had many requests for local honey. I did not know much about honey, the difference between local and store bought or even where to get it. In fact, I remember not really even liking honey all that much as a kid. Well after some research, I did find a local beekeeper willing sell it to me at a fair price.
...and so it began. The first thing I found was that bees and beekeeping was a HUGE conversation starter with the customers. I loved hearing about people who were beekeepers themselves or knew someone who had done it. They told me about such things as bee sting therapy and how honey could help with my son's allergies; how to make mead and that honey could come in a variety of flavors. I decided that it was time to really look into this business. I hit the internet and found an old 1980’s DVD form K. Deleplane which I ordered. When I saw this guy take a big box of bees, crack it on the ground and then proceed to dump them into a beehive wearing nothing more than a veil and short sleeved shirt, I was hooked! If I could do that I would definitely have the top war story to tell at parties, every time!
I spent the entire winter reading and watching everything I could get my hands on about the subject. The very real lesson I learned was the old “ask two beekeepers a question and you will get three opinions”. I also was smart enough to take the MCBA beekeeping class. Note to new beekeepers: This class is a must. I found I am lucky enough to live in this part of the country where 5 generations of knowledge is at my fingertips at anytime. You will also find that the laid back and extremely friendly folks in the cub are there to help and guide you with any issue you may have. Good info, good times!
So, now I am in the bee biz. I have my equipment, my bees and most importantly, from far away behind the safety of house and home, the support (and laughter) of my loving family.
April 27,2011 / THE CALL
I was sitting in my garage, painting my hives no less, when it comes. "Your bees are in. When would you like to pick them up"? Then it hits me...This is no longer just some whimsical, good natured topic of conversation with friends and family. This is REAL! I grab my brother-in-law and dash out the door yelling back to my wife that I will clean up the paint in the garage later. We race down to Queen Rite (the supplier) to pick up four packages of Italian bees. All the way down we are looking at each other and asking ourselves what in the hell were we thinking. But when we arrived and walked into the small warehouse holding pallets and pallets of bees, I became very calm. I do not know if it was the low hum of thousands of bees waiting for the adoptive owners to pick them up or if it was the non-chalant attitude of all those who had arrived with me. Either way…This was COOL! I requested that my queens be marked (white is this year’s color) and while I waited I began to bend the ear of everyone around me, as I tend to do. You know, beekeepers remind me of the song Proud Mary where the folks along the river are happy to give. I have yet to meet a fellow beek (bee geek) that was unwilling to share every bit of information they had learned to make sure that mine was a success story. So after a few purchases and many thank s given, I headed home. On the way home I learned that not all bees are always in the cage. My brother-in-law was ping in the back of the head while he was driving. This was news to me as I just found out that I am severely allergic to bee stings and did not bring an epi pen with me. Yeah, I know, why do this if I am allergic? That is for another time. Anyway, the ride home was very exciting. I was running on high.
Then I get home.
“Why are they HERE!” was the question of the night. I calmly explained (through the door) that I needed to wait until the next day to put them in the hives and I had nowhere else to keep them. After many promises that they would be safe, I watched my family emerge from the bunker and saw the wonderment in their eyes. They slowly drew closer and closer and the questions flew. “how many are there?”, “what are they eating?””which one is the queen?”. The funniest was my 20 year old son. This is arguably the toughest kid I have ever met. But when he saw one or two of the hitchhiker bees that had somehow traveled with us, outside the cage, he flew back into the house like Tasmanian devil. Luckily he calmed down and re0joined us, as we all enjoyed some family time with the bees
April 28, 2011 / The Installation
Okay. It’s time. Get psyched.
First real life lesson in beekeeping. Be prep[eared!. As I told you, I was just putting the final coats of paint on my hives yesterday when I picked up the girls. I learned that you never, NEVER, try to set up your bee yard AND install on the same day. This makes for a panicky,less than perfect day. Having said that, I INSTALLED BEES!!!!!!! YEAH FOR ME!!!!! We (my son, brother-in-law and I)all of a sudden became the three stooges! I love how everyone becomes an expert at the art of beekeeping because we all watched some videos and took a couple of classes. Yeah right! We all worked together to come up with what we thought was the best ideas and together we muddled thru. I think we did a pretty good job.
We finished setting up the hives when my son turns into project supervisor and insisted that he help me get my suit and veil on. Jimmy, who even at 20 sometimes wears his heart on his sleeve, was a very concerned mother hen. He knows that I am allergic so he bundles me up like the kid from Christmas Story who falls on the ground and cannot get up. Mind you that my suit is new and has great elastic at the pant cuffs, sleeves and neck as well as being fully zippered. Yet he was not satisfied and proceeded to wrap clear box tape at my pant legs, wrists and VERY snuggly around my neck. It was at this point in the getting dressed process I stopped complaining as the tape noose seemed to be getting tighter.
So now I am ready to either install bees or report for emergency duty at a hazmat incident. It was quite an experience and I got better at it with each hive. I worked slowly and confidently. I also had the advantage of Jimmy standing by my side at every step. The most amazing thing was to see the transformation from last night until today. He actually got in there with me bare handed! The kid had no fear! So, after a long day and successfully installing the bees we went home. The only thing that kept going through my mind was that I had opened up for business and on my first day I had hired over 50,000 employees. Payroll is going to be hell!
April 29, 2011 / CALL 911!
I am sure you all remember and experienced the wicked winds of the west on Thursday. Well so did I. Earle (my b-in-law) and I went out to check the sugar water levels and look at our new staff of bees. Earle goes on ahead of me but when I start out towards the hives he comes racing back screaming that one of the hives was down. My head grew foggy and I had trouble understanding the information being given. Down? What do you mean? Then I saw it. The number three hive, the newly purchased 8 framer was completely toppled over backwards. The lids blown into the woods line that sits behind the colonies. The super that surrounds the bucket feeder off to the side and the frames completely inverted and exposed, laying on the ground like but neatly together like fallen dominoes. Panic stricken and without thinking I started to re-setup the hive body. I then slowly picked up each frame and replaced them with care. When I finally placed the top cover back on and drew what felt like my first breath, Earle pointed out that I had reached a point of passage. I did all of this without gloves!
I was, at that moment in time, a god.
I had reached down from the heavens with my bare hands and rescued this poor, helpless, defenseless colony of insects without regard to life and limb. I had offered shelter and nourishment. I had bonded with these little creatures. . It is obvious. I am truly gifted.
We placed large epics of cut slab wood on top of the hives with plans to purchase ratchet tie downs and eye bolts for security.Gotta think this thru…..
May 1, 2011 / First Bee Yard Report
Phenomenal weather today. I can see bees very busy at the entrance of number three (the blow over hive) and number 4 *the dead out from last year). By the way I have 4 hives. One new 8 frame, two old 10 framers purchased from the Lorain County Bee Inspector and 1 that was left over from last year that has been given to me by the property owner where I keep my hives. The area is on case road in North Ridgeville for those of you who are familiar. It has a creek running thru the property as well as a large blueberry farm. I am well within range of both Sandy River Reservation and LCCC campus. I am told this could be a flora haven for the girls.
I fed the girls again. Everybody bone dry (top feeders and buckets) except for hive 1. Seems they are not that thirsty. I closed up everything. I then patted myself on the back for a job well done. Went home, ate a sandwich and took a nap. Ahhhh. It’s good to be king.
May 4, 2011
We released the queens today. That was interesting. I found that I have grown impatient waiting for the 7 day period to pass and decided not to use the marshmallow plug. This method was also discouraged during class. The first I did was uncorked her and set her right back in with a cover. I then went back to hive one. She was out of the cage. Hive 2 had to be coaxed out as well as 3 and 4. I actually saw queen two go down in. This took longer than I thought as I was being careful, remembering from class that this could be a $25.00 mistake.
Earle and I also laid out some carpet around the hives. I am not sure how I feel about this look. It kind of gives the site a bit of a Ridge-tucky feel.