Although I am still in the early stages, I am truly enjoying our decision to raise bees. As with most subjects, I am finding out that the more I do, the more I have to learn. And some lessons hurt. We started out with two hives. Not too long ago, I ventured out in the evening to check the hives. Perfect. Activity on both, although one hive looked a little light in the evening activity department. One thing I have learned is that it is better to open your hive to look inside in the morning, as most of the bees leave the hive then to gather food supplies. A day or two later, the Country Boy came in and told me that there were no bees in one of the hives. Yikes! Sure enough, not a bee to be found. The other one was still buzzing strong, but this first one was the bee version of a ghost town.
Come to find out, I got my first lesson in wax moths. On my regular checks, I didn’t notice them, as they were in the bottom box, and I was not familiar enough with the signs. My bees couldn’t sustain themselves with no wax, and the moths destroyed any larva and food storage, so they hightailed it out of there when I wasn’t watching. Right now, there is no way I can afford to buy more bees, and more than likely I couldn’t find anyone who had any to sell this late in the year. Like a kid, I kicked my toe in the ground and pouted. But little did I know, this cloud had a beautiful silver lining tucked inside of it. I just needed to wait until the right time for it to be revealed.
During the September Council Meeting for the Village of Hall Summit, that silver lining was revealed. The Superintendent for the RV Park, who also does our meter reading, reported that one meter had not been read because a swarm of bees had taken up residence. My mouth quickly overloaded my brain and I volunteered to remove them. After the entire Council agreed to allow me to do that, it just happened to cross my mind that I had never done that before and didn’t know one bee-leg thing about it. But I have never backed down from a challenge. One the way home, I was already mapping out exactly what I needed to do. Item One: Call Johnny and Audi, my bee mentors. Yep. That was the entire list of things to do. When in bee trouble, scream for Johnny and Audi.
These two have to be the most gracious people in the universe. Although I private messaged her, I don’t think she even blinked an eye. She set up a time and gave me a heads up on what I needed to bring. Even better, they showed up with Elaine – a four year old with more beekeeping experience that I could probably ever hope to have.
It took some doing, but I cleaned up one hive box, gathered my supplies and headed out. Johnny pointed out that this particular hive was ‘yellow’ and docile. Without him even having to say a word, I realized that I needed to go back to the books to learn how to tell the different types of bees. From what I understood, these were either Italian, Carniolan, Buckfast, or some blend of these three types. Grateful that these weren’t African bees or a related hybrid, we got to work.
Maybe half an hour later, we had the queen relocated from the meter box to the hive. Johnny makes a good teacher. He made me do some of the work. He did the majority of it, but showed me what he was doing each step of the way, and explained why he was doing it. Several times he had to admonish me to be patient and work slowly, and each time I heeded his words. Regardless of the fact that I was sweating gallons in my bee suit, I loved every second of this beekeeping classroom.
Two days later, the Country Boy and I headed back to retrieve the hive box. At first, we saw very little activity – not even a group of bees hanging out at the entrance, which usually occurs as they try to help cool down the interior on a hot summer’s night. With very little effort, and no angry swarm of bees rising up for the attack, Randy managed to ratchet strap the hive together and move it to the trailer. It was well after dark by the time we got back home and placed the hive back in its original location. We removed the reducer and stood back. Only one bee came out to see what was going on. Uh, oh.
The next morning I finally breathed a sigh of relief. More bees were flying around the entrance. I quietly left, allowing them to become more acquainted with their new home. That evening, I ventured back out and my heart lifted. There was a group of bees around the front of the hive, doing their little dance. This dance is a communications system, explaining to the other bees things like directions and distance to food and water sources. Success!
Maybe I should be suspicious of just how easily this hive relocation was. It was so easy that I can see myself doing it again and again in the future. I mean, I am all about being frugal and saving money, and this is one of the best ways to cut expenses in the beekeeping arena. Right? Something tells me I just might be in for a bigger surprise in the future, and probably not a good one. I am still willing to try. Yes, I would love to have an opportunity to build up my Aviary a little quicker, but I also have a deep-seated concern for the bees. With so many chemicals being used on fields to encourage growth and deter pests and insects, our bees are suffering and dying off. If I can do just a little towards helping the species survive, then I am willing to learn some of my lessons the hard way. And I get a bit of a pay-off as well, through better harvests and the enjoyment of the pure liquid gold that the bees produce.
Yep. Living on this farm is a honey of a deal. In more ways than one.
Thank you, Johnny, Audi and Elaine for everything you do. Y’all make the best Bee Mentors a girl can have. And yes, Johnny. Your ‘invoice’ is being prepared for payment. Will three jars of the Carrot Cake Jam be sufficient? Or do I need to toss in a fourth jar for ‘pain and suffering’?