Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Apprenticeship Beegins!

Two years ago, my Dad decided that we should have a beehive in the backyard. We all thought he was joking but he was very persistant and kept talking about it. I was actually excited, which doesn't come as much of a surprise because I tend to get overly excited about things that are suggested, most of which never end up happening. I like to think I was slightly instrumental in his beekeeping endeavours since I always encouraged the idea and I bought him "Beekeeping for Dummies" to read on a long flight to Peru a few years back. We actually did end up getting bees the following spring! We had the bees for two summers, and even gave away honey as wedding favours at my brother's wedding this past October, but unfortunately the colony didn't survive the winter. I love the idea of having bees, and I've read a beekeeping textbook to try to learn more about bees, but since I wasn't home last summer, I haven't really had much of a chance to learn how to bee-keep. Since our colony died over the winter, my Dad decided to replace them with not just another colony, but two more. When I learned that we were getting new bees, I decided that I would be my Dad's unofficial apprentice this summer and learn as much as possible about keeping bees so that I could have my own colony when I eventually have property of my own. Since the weather was so crappy at the beginning of the summer, it wasn't until two weeks ago that we actually got our bees.

It seems strange that you can buy a colony of bees. Strangest of all, the bees come in a box. We literally bought two boxes of bees, that emit a low hum that is somewhat calming until you start to actually think about it, at which point it gives you goosebumps, especially when they're in the backseat of the car with you. The boxes each come with a Queen in a plastic casing so she doesn't get lost and 3 frames of her royal subjects. When you open up the box of bees, you transfer the 3 frames into your beehive. When you take the Queen out and place her in the hive and seal it up, her followers stick with her and make the new hive home since that's where their Queen is.
Two Boxes of Bees!

Beehives have layers (supers), and each super has 10 frames. The bottom super doesn't produce honey because it is usually left for the bees to use for personal use (winter reserves, etc) and then you can take the honey from the upper layers. When you first buy them, you only get 3 frames full of bees, but as the hive matures, all ten frames in the bottom super fill up with bees and when you add honey supers they fill up too as the colony expands.

Getting the Smoker Ready for the Transfer

Transferring a Frame From the Box to the Hive

Even though we only got the bess two weeks ago, we opened up the hives to see how they were doing a couple days ago and already the colonies have expanded exponentially! The 10 frames are not quite full but all contain bees and the hives are buzzing happily. I love bees! This post wasn't very technical but I'll be sure to post about all my adventures in apprentice beekeeping this summer!

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