Adding Honeybees to the Homestead

Exciting things are planned for 2017, and one of them is a long-time goal of mine! While I was able to check chicken-keeping off my list years ago, beekeeping has always been beyond us.

After moving to our new home one 2015, beekeeping became more of a reality (albeit, distant) than dream, as we began to plan for all of the things we would one day like on our property.

In 2016, we tried Mason bees and Leafcutter bees for the first time, and experienced a bunch of problems: after releasing both bees, we had sudden and unforecasted torrential downpours (so bad, our little road looked like a river and we had major flooding in the yard), as well as a bird who kept knocking tubes out of the house to try and nest there. In the end, we were able to harvest maybe a dozen Mason bee cocoons, and half a dozen Leafcutter bees. We were a little saddened by the lack of a triumphant success with our first bee experiment, but not disheartened. We plan to release our harvested bees this year, and possibly order more to bolster our solitary bee community.

This year, however, we take an even larger step in beekeeping as we add honeybees to our homestead!

Money of our dear friends passed away recently, and we acquired his old langstroth bee hives. Now I know that reusing old hives is a controversial topic in the beekeeping community, but we knew the colonies had been removed, and had not been the victims of bacteria, disease or mites. The hive boxes and most frames were in excellent condition, and we only had to scrape out excess propolis and wax. There were wax moths in some of the boxes, no doubt finding a happy home in the vacated hives, and unfortunately, even a mouse!

It took two days of scraping and cleaning, then I scrubbed the boxes with a vinegar solution, rinsed well and left them in the sun to dry out. After they had dried, I heat-treated the boxes with a blow torch, just to be safe, eliminating any bacteria and mites from the wood.

I repainted the hives with a thick coat of a nice, very light pastel green that will look so nice in the yard. Hives should be painted white, or a pastel color, to help deflect heat.

We’ve ordered two packages of bees, as it is recommended to start with two hives, this way you have the ability to compare colonies as you go. It also gives you a better chance of saving one colony if the other loses its queen, or has other issues. One 3-lb package of bees contains approximately 10,000 honey bees!

Our tentative pick up date is set for April 22nd – Earth Day! What better way to celebrate Earth Day than by starting our own bee colonies! Honey bees are in danger, both in the US and world wide, due to the extensive use of chemical pesticides and GMO plants. It’s scary to think about what the world would look like without bees!

My husband and I will be taking an introductory bee course this coming week to supplement our research, and the beekeeper we ordered our honeybees from has offered to help us out and mentor is as we learn! It’s great to have resources nearby to lend a hand of something happens and we don’t know what is going on, or how to fix it!

I’m very excited to start our honeybee colonies this April, and we’re enjoying researching, reading books and watching every bee-related documentary and movie we can find! Should I be corny? It’s going to be a bee-utiful year!


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