Monday, April 30, 2012

A Bee-utiful Way to Spend an Evening: My First Beekeeping Experience

Since I mentioned my joint beekeeping endeavor with my parents a few times on here, I thought I would share how our hive installation went!

After reviewing the notes from my beekeeping classes, reading the installation part of Keeping Bees a few times, and watching a bunch of YouTube bee installation videos (this one was the most helpful, in my opinion), my husband and I were ready to suit up and put our six-pounds of Italian honeybees into their hives.

Working with thousands of buzzing bees was quite the experience, definitely unlike anything I've ever done before. I actually documented the whole experience on my personal blog, but here are some tidbits.

"That's a lot of bees. If you look at the picture above (click on it to see better), you can see how I've got bees just hanging out on me. At point, my dad said, "You've got bees all over your pants!" (I'd worn black pants. I know. Smart. But if you watch the videos, lots of the bee experts just wear regular clothes and don't even wear gloves, so...yeah...I'm getting some light colored pants). Sure enough, I looked down and saw like ten bees (at least) on each of my legs. Of course, my first instinct was to start running around like a crazy person to get them off, but instead I made myself brush them off calmly. The weirdest was when they would buzz around my head. I had to remind myself not to swat them. A few landed right on the veil, right in front of my eyes and nose. Again, it was pretty strange to just let them buzz in my face like that. I just kept chiding them, saying "It's okay. I'm on your side, girls!"  (FYI: most bees you encounter are girls. They're the worker bees. The boy bees -- called drones -- don't even have a stinger.) I'm happy to report that neither one of us were stung (apparently, Italian bees are the most docile). Part of me wants to get stung so I can stop worrying about that first sting, you know?"

 And some thoughts about being a new beekeeper (a new-bee? ha ha).
"It's weird to feel this sense of, that's not the right word...I guess responsibility for thousands of insects. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night last night, and asked Kevin, in a half-awake stupor, if we'd put the queen's box in the right direction (we did). We're going back up to my parents' house today for my brother's birthday (happy birthday, Matt!) and I'm excited to check on them. I still feel a little nervous about the inspections (it's one thing to install them at their most docile, another to open up a busy hive that they'll want to protect), but I'm mostly just excited about it all. And the honey! I know it's only our first season and we'll probably not get as much, but it's going to be so cool to use honey from our hives and think of the small part we played in getting it."
To read my bee installation post in its entirety, check it out here.

Since I'm mentioning all of this on this blog, the question must be asked: Is beekeeping frugal? Only time will tell. There are definitely some start-up costs to this new endeavor. But honey at the store isn't cheap.  I imagine the honey we harvest will eventually make the hives pay for themselves. It all depends on how much honey we get. I'll keep you posted. Plus, from what I've heard, store-bought honey has nothing on the honey from your own hives. I can't wait to find out.

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