Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adventures in Beekeeping

(Mitchell and Jared suited up.)

Back in December, Jared and I became the proud owners of five bee hives. Someone in our church was preparing to move and was looking to sell their hives and all their beekeeping equipment. Since beekeeping is a hobby Jared has enjoyed in the past with his older brother, he thought it would be fun to have a few hives of his very own.  Jared read some books on the subject, and opened the hives a few times to tend his bees. Everything seemed to be going smoothly.  However, in March, we had an unexpected visitor. The hives sit about a hundred yards behind our house and back up to a large wooded area. The unexpected visitor was a black bear which completely destroyed two of the hives!

                                        (I took this picture of the devastation with my phone.)

Jared pieced the two hives back together only for the bear to return the next evening and destroy one of the same hives again. The next night, we decided to move the hives farther away from the woods and surround them with an electric fence. We also shone a flashlight into the woods and saw the bear, watching our every move! Our neighbor scared him away with bird shot and thankfully, we haven't seen him since.

Fast forward to April, it seemed that every other day, one of our hives would swarm. This is when a new queen is born and the old queen and all her minions leave the hive for good to start a new hive. I have learned that this is a natural part of hive reproduction but as a beekeeper, it is something you should try to prevent. Because, unfortunately, the old queen and all her workers eat a bunch of honey before they take off.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend. With the bear attack and all the swarming we had going on, we were uncertain how much honey would actually be in our hives. Jared decided to open the hives to check up on them and found them loaded! It was harvest day. Even though it was hotter than hades, Jared roped me into putting on a bee suite and helping him get all the honey out of the hives and into the house. It was crazy! The bees were really aggressive, and rightfully so. In the end, Jared ended up with one sting on the ear, I ended up with one really nasty sting on my ankle but on the bright side, we ended up with about 8 gallons of honey! Not bad for two relatively new beekeepers. Thankfully the bees do most of the work. :)

(Harvesting day with crazy bees.)