Thursday, April 27, 2006

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Over the years when my Uncle Glenn and I used to write letters back and forth talking about living off the land and homesteading he peaked my interest in bee’s. He gave me the impression that it was a good wholesome endeavor to add to this way of life.

So I figured at some point I’d learn more about bee’s and include a little honey operation to what we we're doing here. Then a few years ago our friends Phil and Joanna were simplifying their lives and Phil decided to sell off his bee keeping equipment. I bought it all from him for a very reasonable price. Otherwise at the time, I would not have been able to afford it.

I fully planned on getting bee’s the following spring but, the time came and went and I never educated myself much about how it all works. So I put it off each year thinking, well this winter I’ll learn what I need to learn and then I’ll get some bee’s. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am an expert procrastinator. In fact years ago I had a T-shirt that said “Destination Procrastination”. If I remember right, Kelli bought it for me.

So that is how it has gone these past years, all that nice equipment I bought from Phil has set in our shed taking up space and collecting dust. You know what they say about good intentions. Well, I was finally forced out of my procrastinating ways when our friend Dan was telling me about his desire to go into commercial bee farming. Dan came over for a visit and he was telling me about his plan so I showed him my equipment in the shed. Later that week I got an email from him informing me that he ordered me some bee’s and they’d be here sometime in the
middle of April!

So low and behold last Friday they indeed arrived and Dan came to help me set up. Of course I still had not yet researched the subject of bee keeping so Dan had to show me everything to do. Actually he is in the process of selling his house so I offered to keep his bee’s for him until he and his family get resettled in a different place. I have two of his hives and two of mine.
The bee’s came in little screened in wood framed boxes. Each box holding one queen and about 10,000 to 12,000 bee’s. Yes, that is correct. Ten to twelve thousand. All together over 40,000 bee’s. Yow! Needless to say I was a little intimidated to suit up and release all those little buggers.

Of course the hood on my bee suit had mouse holes eaten in it from being stored in the shed for years. So I only did the natural thing a guy could do and patch the holes with duct tape. Dan said, “do you ever watch Red Green?” I chuckled and got his drift. I don’t know if the Red Green show is aired in your part of the country or not. It’s a hilarious TV show that is made up north in Michigan’s U.P. about some country hicks who do everything in hillbilly fashion. Lots of duct tape on the show if you know what I mean.

Anyway, after a few long minutes we got the holes plugged up and pant legs wound tight with liberal amounts of duct tape then commenced to releasing the 40,000 plus mass of bee’s. I watched as Dan shook the first bunches of bee’s out of their box and into his hive.

Each shipping container had a hole in the top where a tin can was placed which contained corn syrup. The cans road upside down with a small hole in the lid where a piece of cloth acted as a wick of which provided nourishment to the in bee’s in transit. The queens were in little boxes by themselves in the bigger boxes which the rest clung to with determination.

Before emptying the bee’s into the hive boxes the queen had to be taken out. But, first you had to remove the tin can full of corn syrup which was also closing up the only hole. The exit for the bee’s. Dan shook the shipping containers much harder than I would have, thinking such forceful motion would cause the bee’s to become agitated. It didn’t seem to bother them in the least bit. They just dropped into their new home with no fuss at all. Almost immediately though there were lots of bee’s flying around and some landing on us, however with no hostile intent. I can imagine though, that if we had not had our bee suits on they might have crawled down around our collars and we might have been inadvertently stung.

It took quite a bit of shaking and tapping of the shipping containers to get the majority of bee’s out and then Dan just set the containers down near by so that the remaining holdouts could find their way out. The next step was to open the queen’s tiny container which had a small cork in the end and set it inside with the rest of the bee’s. Then the top was set up with corn syrup and pollen cake. The pollen cake comes in the shape of a piece of leather with a waxy piece of paper on either side. The bee’s eat it all including the paper. Apparently this gets them up and going until there is enough natural food in the area and they get established.

After Dan got his two hives all set up then came my turn. When I got to the part of shaking the bee’s out I was again amazed at how hard you had to shake the shipping box to get them out. I suppose an experienced bee keeper develops an knack for doing this so it doesn‘t take so long. I was shaking it and tapping the sides and thumping the whole time to get them into them out but, eventually it worked. If I wouldn’t have had Dan there I don’t know what I would have done. But, once the queen is in place they want to go to her anyway. That’s what the stragglers did and all the ones flying around. It’s amazing how God made bee’s so smart. They bond with their own queen and know which hive to go to. Just watching the complexity of a bee colony should show people that evolution is a bunch of bunk. And bee’s evolved the ability to know how to do this. Yeah right!

After me and Dan got every thing buttoned up we got our bee suits off and stood there watching these complex little communities go right to work. Truly amazing. Actually it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I wish I would have done it a lot sooner.

I still don’t know much about bee keeping but, I know more than I did last week. I noticed that I was having a hard time in times past reading about them because I couldn’t understand the lingo. Now that I’ve seen the set up I think I will be able to better grasp the educational materials out there.

We have a science video around here that we used for home schooling which has a segment about bee’s. I plan to dig that out and watch it with renewed interest. I imagine there will be things I didn’t notice before, now that I’ve seen it up close.

I’m still surprised that I like bee’s as well as I do now. It gives me a good feeling inside to see them being “busy as bee’s” working non-stop, just doing what God designed them to do, and for my benefit. If I under stood right, each hive can have up to a hundred pounds of honey by the end of the season. By the second day you could already see bee’s bringing in pollen on their back legs. I had no idea there was even pollen out there to be found yet. Talk about Gods economy, extravagant abundance. God provides, no need to fret and no need to worry.

These are three of the shipping containers that the bee's came in. The little thing on the top of the first one is what the queen comes in. It is only about 2 1/2 inches high to give you an idea of size here. The bee's where clinging to it. The hole in the top of the shipping crate is where the tin can of corn syrup goes and also where you shake the bee's out of.

These are a couple night shots I took of the hives earlier. The top photo is of my two with the fancy landing ramps. The bottom photo is of mine and Dans. Dans being the closest.

These are in the beginning stages, we will build higher as the bee's do their work. A friend of Dans will be stopping by from time to time to check on the progress for me and I'm sure Phil, who I got my stuff from, will be checking up also. I'll need all the help I can get. There are things I will have to watch for as to how they are developing. There are certain things you do for certain developments.

All you bee people out there are probably cringing at my lack of bee understanding but, I learn best by doing.

Well Jonathan I think that's about it. Can't think of anything else at the moment. Like I already indicated I'm a total novice here and an ignorant one too, as far as bee's go. All I know is I do like them a lot. More than I figured on.

Until Next Time


Blogger Leslie said...

We have talked about getting bees but it will have to wait until next year or even the year after. We have our hands full with more than enough new things this first year in the country!

I totally enjoyed your post. That was all new to me, too. No wonder you had to shake so hard - those holes aren't very big at all!

Very enjoyable post.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

Everyone's getting bees except me! :( Dwayne has had his fill of wasps and such around here so any mention of bees makes his hair stand on end.

Just had to tell you...the Terrorist Baby was reading the title of your post over my shoulder and not knowing the difference yet between to, too, and two, she's under the impression that you're getting "two bees". Won't get much honey from that hive! ;^D

4:20 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks for posting that!

8:08 AM  
Blogger RL said...

Everyone tells me bees are very easy to take care of. Hardly any work they say. It would be better to be armed with a little more knowledge than what I went into it with. I think if I would have seen someones else's set up that would have helped alot.

Yeah, usually we want to avoid things with stingers. That sweet honey makes it all worth it though.

Your welcome. I just wish I had more info to share with you. Good luck with your bee's.

4:22 PM  

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