Sunday, April 13, 2014

May the Force Bee With Us!

We've talked about it for years... many years. When we bought the acreage, it was discussed again... It would be cool to have bee hives. It was talked about, but that was it.

Last summer, though, things changed. While working outside, the drone of a thousand bees chased us into the house. We watched as the cloud -- probably closer to 60,000 in number, crossed our yard and landed on our fence. It was May, and the bees were looking for a home. An hour later, they were gone, still in search of their own little piece of soil.

It piqued our curiosity... so it was time to learn more about these little critters if we were, willingly or not so much, going to share our space with them. We read, we googled, we YouTubed, we talked, we forumed, we met with associations... and finally last week, we became apiarists. Even the government has bestowed their blessings upon us, so it must be real.

In Canada, you get bees from New Zealand. It's the only place we are allowed to get them, and they come in cardboard tubes with little nets on the end. Jet lagged, and probably suffering from more than just a little bit of culture shock, going from warm fall to cool spring, we put the bees into their new homes.

As you can see from the picture, while winter is gone, spring is taking it's time arriving, so we needed to create food for them so they could start their work. The end of the tube was opened, and a long piece of screen that was attached to the end was pulled out. In the middle of the string of screen was a box -- the queen cage -- which we unplugged, then replugged with a marshmallow. Some of the bees chew through the marshmallow to free her, while the rest set up home. It's simply a means of keeping her there long enough for the rest to like their new digs, and to give them time to set up house. Then the rest of the bees get dropped in from the tube, the cover goes on, and we wait... and hope that things are going okay inside.

Over the course of the week we watched as they cleaned out any of the bees that didn't survive the trip. There were only a few in each of the hives, but bees are neat freaks, and they clean out all the garbage right away. We also saw them coming back from their flights with their legs loaded yellow with pollen. A queen wasp showed up for a visit, testing the resolve of our bees... they prevailed and the wasp was denied entry. It would take one heck of a brave wasp to try to breach the walls of those two fortresses, but in the heat of the summer, it can happen... and happen quickly.

After a week of watching, and wondering, we opened the hives to see what they were doing, and if they were happy. Judging from the results, and the amount of honeycomb already created by them, it seems they like it here just fine. They are not aggressive, and despite being noobies, there have been no stings or other ugly incidents (although we do keep the epipen handy). They have been drinking the syrup and eating the protein mat... and they have definitely been busy. We did keep the smoker handy, but it wasn't needed. Now that the flowers are blooming, they should be much happier.

We will be sharing this journey with you... as we get our two new hives next month, move the existing hives to their new location, and undoubtedly make some typical noobie errors. We'll also share some bee trivia tidbits with you, because they are really incredibly interesting little critters. We're looking forward to the journey though, and many years of learning, and enjoying, these amazing and necessary gifts of nature.

May the Force bee with us!!

1 comment:

  1. I give you much credit. My fear of bees, perhaps a tad bit over the top, would have me trapped in doors.