Honeybee Heaven

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
Albert Einstein

A few years ago, while my parents were visiting, I busted out a jar of honey for toast. When my parents asked where I had gotten it I told them my supervisor was a beekeeper and bottles his own honey. Thus began the adventure of my parents becoming beekeepers (which is ironic because my mom is allergic to them…they also own chickens and she’s afraid of birds but I digress).

They expressed interest in the idea but I didn’t give it much thought until one day my mom told me they were just getting home from a beekeeping class and that they were only one class away from finishing. They had the hive boxes all ready to go and would receive their first shipment of bees, carniolans, in a few short weeks. My mom sent me a few pictures from the bees’ arrival and their transfer to their new homes.

Transferring the bees into the hive.

Transferring the bees into the hive.

Checking on the hive

The donkeys watched with curiosity at the happenings.

The donkeys watched with curiosity at the happenings.

That's a lot of bees!

That’s a lot of bees!

I interviewed my parents for today’s post and by interview I mean I sent them an email with a few questions but it’s fun to hear from the perspective of the actual beekeepers.

How many bees do you have?
Dad: I have two hives but I am not sure how many. I do know that in the spring, the hive is at its fewest bees. If I had to guess I would put it at 20,000 to 30,000. Someone who has been at this longer would probably be able to answer that more accurately.

How did the bees fare through the winter?
Dad: To me, I think they did well. I saw them out and about on a few occasions on the warm days throughout the winter and now they seem to be more active each day. This tells me that the queens of each hive survived the winter and remain productive.
Mom: I’m making them a lot of sugar water to feed them as nothing has blossomed out yet for them to feed off. Dandelions are their first source so hopefully soon.

How many times have you been stung? (This question was specifically for my dad as mentioned earlier my mom is allergic to bees.)
3-4 times total. Each time I had it coming to me. The worst one was a sting on my big toe. That one really hurt. I wear a suit when I open the hives but for the most part I spend a lot of time right up close to the hives without protective equipment. This is probably asking for trouble but really, unless they become agitated, they do not pay much attention to me. There will always be a couple of guard bees that will buzz around me, and even land on me to kind of check me out, but they have jobs to do and are not really concerned with wasting time to chase me away. However, if agitated, you don’t want to be anywhere near the hives. It’s best not to even look their direction. They’re angry.

How much honey do you think you have now?
Dad: Last fall, I had three boxes in each hive that contained 10 frames in each box. A portion of those frames was for the queen to lay eggs(larvae). Conservatively I would say I had 20 frames in each box that contained honey. I left all of that in the boxes so the bees could feed off of it until spring. Even now we are feeding them sugar water to survive until things start to bloom later this spring.
Mom: We’ve had a few licks and it tastes pretty good.

(I had also asked them if they were able to compare their honey with the honey my supervisor bottles (I had gotten them their own jar) but they don’t have enough to actually compare. The reason I had asked is their bees encounter different types of flowers and food sources than the bees in Colorado which gives honey its own flavor.)

When do I get my first batch? 
If we are successful in keeping the hives strong you will be put on the list.   (Yay, I’m on the list!! So is everyone else though, I might need an edge here 😉 )

What’s been your favorite part so far?
Dad:  I really like taking care of them and watching them. This year should be the most interesting. Now that they have survived the winter, it will now take some work to make sure they remain healthy and continue to grow the colonies, and ultimately to produce some honey for harvesting in the fall.

Excited in the beginning...before the heat really got to us.

Excited in the beginning…before the heat really got to us.

Inspection

They didn’t seem to mind as long as we left them alone.

Holding the beesLast July was the first time I had encountered the buzzers and I was excited when my dad asked if I wanted to see them! Getting into the suit is pretty easy; making sure you have no open areas is key. So getting gloves and boots on in the right order and making sure everything was zipped is the hardest part of the whole process. You can’t see it in the pictures but I’m wearing these awesome polka-dot rain boots since all I had were sandals. Once we were suited up we headed out. Unfortunately I picked the hottest, most humid day, to do this so the second we stepped outside we were drenched in sweat.

The frames closest to the middle were heavy with honey and that’s where most of the bees focused their attention. The bees were making great progress on the one I’m holding in the second picture and only had the combs had formed on the third frame. The bees were fairly subdued, partially thanks to the smoker that my dad used. This keeps them calm while they’re hive is being picked apart. They buzzed quite a bit in the beginning but after a while didn’t care as long as they weren’t bothered. It was fun trying to figure out which bees were doing which job; I’m still confused as how to tell them apart.

I would have loved to stay out and watch them longer but after a while the heat was too much. Maybe next time we visit it won’t be so hot and I can venture out again! I’d heard a lot about beekeeping from my supervisor but being up close and personal to the whole process was really cool. There’s a lot more too it than I would have imagined. It also makes you think twice about swatting at rogue bees that are flying around you when you’re outside. They might just be part of someone’s hive and now I’ll feel bad if I take one down.

That ends today’s lesson in beekeeping. I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

A quick H shout out to Halley’s Comics in downtown FC. It’s kind of a hole in the wall store that you might miss if you weren’t looking. This is W’s favorite store for comics. The owners are really helpful and have decent prices. Every now and then I’ll wander in with W but not because I’m into comics; I go for the store mascot. Georgie is a big, fluffy cat that lives in the store. He’s such a friendly guy and absolutely loves to be petted. Once he gets the first pat he’ll follow you around seeking out more!

It’s National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day so remember your POW’s today. It’s also Name Yourself Day…I’ll have to think on that. There’s so many other names I could be.

Until I!

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10 thoughts on “Honeybee Heaven

  1. Hi Ruby .. good for your parents to take on bee-keeping .. it’s such an essential serious hobby in today’s age .. we’re getting more and more here …

    Cheers Hilary

  2. Thanks for following my Europe blog. You have a great blog. I was in Fort Collins two summers ago for a voice workshop. It is a cute little town. I remember the burger place on the main street and the Fair Trade store where I bought a Himalayan singing bowl. It is also the only town I know of where the train goes right down the middle of the street. I like this post about honeybees.

  3. Pingback: Every Day In May – Day 21 | Me, You and Zu

  4. Pingback: Iowa: Pet paradise | Me, You and Zu

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