Since taking the Homesteading Class in October we have known that we wanted bees to be part of our overall plan. We even bought two wooden hives and ordered two boxes of bees soon after the class from one of the teachers.
One day last month Guv’nor and Son took the basic beekeeping class from Ploughshare Institute at Homestead Heritage. Then they started collecting the equipment they would need: suit, hat, veil, gloves, smoker, pry bar, brush, spray bottle, jars, and sugar. Meanwhile, Daughter helped by painting the hives.
I tagged along last week when Guv’nor went to pick up the two boxes of bees. I didn’t realize we’d be bringing the bees back home inside the truck. Thankfully, none of the bees got out, but one did sneak a ride on the outside of the box.
The main purpose of having bees is for pollination of plants and trees, but a great benefit is the honey and beeswax they produce. For the first year, and until the bees are established in the hive, they are fed sugar water. We will have to wait a year to enjoy the honey. Patience.
I asked Guv’nor to give me some interesting facts about bees, and here’s what he had to say:
1. They can fly up to 10 miles from the hive and navigate using the ground contours and the shape of tree lines and the direction of the sun – even in cloudy weather.
2. They get so accustomed to the location of their hive that if it is moved by more than 18” they will get very angry and attack things in their path.
3. Queens are worker bee larvae that are fed exclusively on royal jelly, the food of queens. The workers are so attuned to their queen that they can sense when she is ill and close to death and they start raising up new queens immediately.
4. Bees do a dance to their fellows in the hive to pinpoint food sources. The orientation of their dance relative to the sun’s direction provides a bearing, and the intensity of their “wiggles” provides the distance.
5. Bees maximize the freight they can carry. They load up with food for calories only just sufficient to arrive at the food source. That way they minimize the amount they consume from the hive and maximize the amount they can bring back.
6. Bees have an amazing sense of smell. The smell of the queen reassures the hive of her presence. If the bees cannot smell her they get disoriented. When we put our new bees into their new home, the queen had to go first so all the others would know it was home.
7. Smoke is used by bee keepers to mask the smell of “alarm” emitted by frightened bees, and maintain a relaxed mood in the hive. Smoke does not put them to sleep, but rather they maintain their intense activity with an attitude of “all is well”.
8. It is estimated that a million visits to flowers are needed by bees to make a pound of honey.
9. Bees only fly when it warms to 57F and they do not fly in the rain. When it gets really cold they huddle very close together and generate warmth to sustain themselves.
10. The male bee, the drone, has only two purposes in life: to eat and to mate with a queen.
|These are called "top bar" hives. Daughter did a good job painting them white.|
|This hive is an original design by Jacob at Homestead Heritage. The lid lifts off to get to the bees.|
|Each "bar" has a plastic starter comb for the bees to attach their comb.|
|The original design has an entrance for the bees at each end.|
|Here's a photo of Guv'nor all suited up in his bee gear.|
|When we arrived there were about 30 boxes of bees in a barn waiting to be picked up.|
|We bought 2 boxes of "Carnilian" bees.|
|Jacob estimated that there were 3000 bees in each box!!|
|Sugar water makes the bees happy.|
|Guv'nor opened up the first bee box very carefully.|
|Guv'nor and Son are looking for the queen to remove first.|
|The bee came in a little plastic capsule that was attached inside the hive.|
|Once the queen was settled, the box of bees were shaken out into the hive.|
|They set up the second hive just like the first.|
|This is a happy hive of bees with their sugar water to drink.|