So we got our bees on Friday! This is very exciting and a little bit nerve racking, as we have never kept bees ourselves. I worked with them a little when I was on the farm in Pennsylvania, and Ariel’s folks had bees when she was growing up, but that’s the extent of it, so this is a very new adventure for the both of us.
We spent a lot of time reading up on bees this winter and getting our equipment in place. We found some great used equipment on craigslist, and had it fumigated by the state to get rid of any foul brood, a decease that can easily wipe out a whole colony. We also gave the hives a fresh coat of paint as they had been painted cotton candy pink! A few of the frames need more foundation, the wax sheets that the bees use to build their comb, so we replaced those. I also got myself a bee proof jacket and veil the other day, so we are ready to go.
We have two hives set up on a nice level space at the end of one of our fields. They have a natural wind block on one side and some tall trees around so the hives will get some shade, and they have a large field to fly out and over when they leave the hive. Bees roam extremely far from home to search for food, and they like a nice open space to fly out over. We have the hives protected with electrical fencing, as we do have some bears around here, and it would be a shame to loose bees and equipment to a hungry bear.
How do you get bees, you might be asking. Well, there are two main ways, one is to catch a swarm in the wild, but that requires some expertise. The other is to buy them from a local apiary, which is what we did. We ordered two nucs, or small colonies of bees, complete with a queen and frames full of comb, honey and brood. We got local bees that have been overwintered here in the mountains of Madison Co, so they will be well adapted to our area.
We arrived early Friday morning at Wild Mountain Apiaries, located just a few miles from here, all giddy with excitement and ready to get our bees home and into their new home. Jon, the owner, was outside with a trailer that held about 60 or so boxes full of bees. There were a few bees flying around, but way less than I was expecting. After a quick chat with Jon, we put the hives in the back of the car, placed some items around them so they wouldn't topple over if we had to slam on the brakes or take a tight turn. The idea of a box full of thousands of bees opening up in an enclosed car did not seem like our idea of a good time…
I had the hives all ready to go, and had made a batch of sugar water before we left. This is just to give the bees a head start as the nectar flow hasn’t started yet, we just have dandelions and red buds starting to bloom around here, so the sugar water will help them get established and keep them fed until everything else comes into bloom.
Ariel’s parents Scott and Joy, as well as our friend Joel, came over to help and to provide moral support, which was mainly for me… I have a confession to make, I have a fear of bugs… I will flinch and contort myself in odd ways to get out of the way of a flying insect and I will nervously enter any dark or dusty or cob web invested out building, basement, hallway or shed, and the thought of going into a damp crawl space? Don’t even get me started….just one word: Jumping Spiders!! (well I guess that’s two), but who’s counting, they jump so high and in such unpredictable ways!!!!
But I digress… You might be wondering why somebody who has a fear of bugs would willingly thrust himself in the midst of thousands of them, with only some thin cotton and a veil to protect him…. and so am I!!! So if you have a good answer, I am all ears.
Bee suits on, and a few breathing exercises later, Scott and I walked the buzzing boxes of bees over to the hives, had a quick consult on the plan, and opened up the first box. As soon as we did, any fear or doubt disappeared instantly! What I was seeing was simply astonishing. Thousands of bees, massing around each other and crawling every which way. They were so calm and beautiful to look at hat I just had to stop and stare. I took a few seconds to take this all in, before reaching down to grab the first frame. As delicately as I could, I picked up the frame, which was so much heavier than I thought, and I was able to slowly move it into the hive. Most of the bees just stuck to the frame, and I could see them working away. The next frame was the same and I couldn't believe how calm I was! The bees were just doing their thing and had no worries about us at all, and I got the distinct feeling that if I remained calm and cool, so would they. We moved all the frames into the two hives, placed the hive top feeder on top and filled it with the sugar water. Then the lid on top, and now we wait a week before going back in.
I can’t wait to see what has happened inside during this week! I think my fear of bugs will be cured this way, there is actually a wasp in my office as I write, and it is just giving me a light nervous tick, instead of my usual reaction, which is to immediately grab a sledge hammer and blindly smash it to bits….
This same day was also an exciting one for our baby chicks! They are starting to look more and more like chickens everyday, and their feathers are almost completely grown in, which is nice, as they looked rather decrepit for a while there, as if somebody throw a handful of feathers mixed with embalmers glue at a bald, baby bird.
We wanted to give them their first taste of the outside world, and we thought they were ready for it, so with much anticipation, some strategically placed cameras to capture that glorious moment the first chicken would come tumbling dow the ramp, I opened the door to their run and……. nothing……
I am not sure why I expected anything different, they run ever time they see me, and they see me all the time! So the idea that they would just run outside with the same reckless abandon kids have the first day the pool opens in summer was just foolish. I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed, but we took advantage of the extra help and clipped all their flight wings. This was pretty easy, expect that I was the one who had to catch the birds and then hand them through the small run door to Joy, so Ariel could clip they wings.
Once this was done, we let the birds walk around outside for a little while, which was nice, but they weren’t too comfortable, they all hung out together in a huddle, and after an hour to so, most had made their way back inside. The rest need a little coaxing. I think with time they will get more comfortable in the big world, which is great because it was really nice to see them walking around outside, eating grass and catching worms……