Thursday, April 21, 2011

That's My Bee


And this one too.


How do I know? Well the apple tree hasn't had a single bee working the newly blossomed flowers over the past week until I brought this home.


Yup. I drove out to Walnut Creek, plopped the vibrating box in the trunk of the Prius, and drove the bees home. Don't worry, the hive was sealed shut so no bees were flying around the car. I was expecting to be unnerved by a violent buzzing coming from the back, but the wood box really muffled their hum.

I purchased the bees from a Bay Area beekeeper who sells off his swarms along with the base deep and frames. They weren't cheap, but what I liked about it was that I could get started without having to chase down my own swarm and figure out how to establish the hive by myself. I'd like to have a little more experience with the bees before I advance into swarm catching. I also liked the fact that the bees come with a guarantee. If the hive fails within the first three months, the guy will replace them for free.

When I arrived home, I set them in a secret spot in the backyard where no one ever goes, right under the neighbor's two apple trees. As soon as I popped out the protein patty corks, the girls came out to explore their new surroundings. I had a cinder block stand set up as a base for the hive then realized that I needed a framed base for ventilation and to be able to place buckets under the legs to prevent ants. I moved the hive - without any bee gear, mind you, cause I'm balls ass crazy like that - over one foot while I put the stand in place. The slight adjustment completely disoriented the bees. They couldn't figure out where the hive entrance was. This after only two hours of being at their new location. Their homing instinct is more accurate than a GPS device. Amazing! And a little weird. I mean how come they can't find their way over a span of 12 inches? I noticed they were getting a tad agitated from the move so I made a makeshift bee veil consisting of a basket on my head and an orange-pink-yellow swirly see through curtain thrown over the top. Never mind my ridiculous ensemble, the thing worked as I endured no stings. I put the hive back in its original place, which then set everyone to right.

Unfortunately, the buckets under the legs didn't seem to deter the ants. By morning the hive was crawling. I kinda freaked. Not even 24 hours after arrival I was being robbed! I couldn't understand how the ants had gotten on the hive. It's not like they can swim, right? Ok, I guess they can swim. With a little online research-o-rama, I found out that I was supposed to put oil in the buckets. Um.... yeah... I knew that.

Though I have had experience with bees, albeit 18 years ago when I was interning on a small organic farm, my knowledge of their inner workings is rudimentary at best. So I've pulled out Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees to refresh my memory and I plan to join the local beekeepers' association. For over 20 years now, I have dreamed of having a hive of my own. I am beyond thrilled with our new additions.

12 comments:

  1. This is something I am looking into as well. I will be interested to see how yours go.

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  2. To save on oil you can fill the cans partially with water and then put a layer of oil on top since it floats.

    Congratulations on the bees! We're getting our first package of bees on Saturday. You're right, they aren't cheap. The cost of the hive was surprising as well.

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  3. I'm wondering if your bees were my bees? Steven split the two hives I host for him about a month ago. Could be. You never know. Now that I have my own two hives, I'm going to ask him to remove his once I'm sure mine are established and I have viable queens.

    Glad you've joined the ranks of beekeepers. Your garden will thank you!

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  4. that is so cool. Your farm just keeps getting more and more awesome.

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  5. SO jealous. We're not allowed to have them in our neighborhood. My plan is just to plant as many bee-attracting plants as I can.

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  6. Brilliant! Bees is on our list (after chickens, but before goats!) and to be able to just buy them all ready to go is great. I am looking at doing a Natural Bee Keeping course, for Warre Hives at the end of the year... so excited!

    Like this: http://milkwood.net/2010/10/28/the-way-of-the-bee-an-intro-to-natural-beekeeping/

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  7. So basically what you're telling us - is that you've been as busy as a bee?? Hmmmmmmm

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  8. So how do you get rid of the ants???

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  9. Yay, bees! I'm picking up my first bees this weekend, but now I'm worried about ants-- I heard just plain water would be fine, but I have a very ant-y backyard. I'm anxious to hear how you outsmart your ants.

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  10. Congrats on your new girls! We disoriented our bees similarly last weekend as our hive stand wasn't finished by the time we caught our first swarm this year. They looked quite confused until we put the hives back on the stand. We've added metal legs to our stand, and will use a combination of bottom water-filled cups, and upper inverted tanglefoot cups to keep ants out. If you're using oil, be sure that the cups can't fill with rainwater, or the oil will slop out on the ground during storms, and makes a mess. I have used the powdered Borax trick too when unearthing an ant colony nearby. Seems to have worked so far. Have fun with your new bees!

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  11. SO, if you have any beekeeping questions please feel free to ask. OR ask my son (Backyard Ecosystems). I am a more traditional beekeeper but moving in his direction and he is a more organic back to nature type.

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  12. We've kept bees in Oakland for a year, now. I've caught a couple of feral swarms, and have given them to newbie Beekeepers. It's bizarre how much I enjoy catching swarms and providing them with homes.

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