It might seem a bit odd. Going from a normal everyday guy, someone that enjoyed all sorts of high tech toys and the like to a beekeeper. And I hadn’t really gotten into this homesteading thing yet. I had no big garden. There was no passionate dream of with my hives I’ll save the world from the decline of the honey bee. So then, how did I get here? And just what did I get myself into. Let me walk you through.
So It Begins
Bees had always been interesting to me. I can’t say that I was ever really afraid of them, but the interest wasn’t at a level of let’s make models and study this little critter. I had been stung, but it didn’t leave me running every time I saw a bee. I was normally the one to try to calm someone else down when they got all spun up about a bee buzzing by. After a while I had a vague notion that perhaps I’ll keep some hives at one point.
At the time it wasn’t for much more of a reason than, honey is expensive, if I have a hive then I’ll have a cheap source for making mead. Yup, my homebrewed mead was the first real driver to getting me to think about having bee hives. And at that point I was thinking oh yeah…wooden box, insert bees and I’ll get buckets of honey!!
Clearly I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. However I was mostly harmless, I had looked at some kits online but I was still in the, hey this is kinda neat. Perhaps one day I’ll get into this. I looked at a few websites here and there and had a few ideas on beekeeping but not so much that it moved me firmly into the yes I want to do this.
And It Got Serious
Then this past fall and into the winter I got some books. First was Beekeeping for Dummies. I read it cover to cover. I picked up some more and the more I read the more intrigued I got. At this point I had more homesteading kind of thoughts. Not so much having animals, but the I could plant out a garden and bees would help with that. I had gotten an apple tree (cause it was on sale at Lowes) and I figured that eventually when I got a second the bees would help with that. Plus I still had thoughts of getting honey to make mead. I was looking at it and thinking about how I could get 50 or even 100 pounds of honey.
Granted, with all this reading I was getting past the get the box and put in bees. I was getting a feel for the level of work that I would have to put in. Sure, it wasn’t just dump in bees and pour out honey, but it wasn’t daily care and feeding. It seemed that for the most part the bees would take care of themselves with some help here and there from me. I got some bulbs and started planting some bee friendly flowers to give them a little snack bar.
Then It Got Real
Thing is I then talked to my mother. It turns out she was interested in bees as well. She didn’t want to be the one working the hives, but she was open to having a hive in her backyard. This was awesome, having read a number of books on keeping these little critters I had seen a number of places its best to start off with 2 hives. The main reason being that as you start you aren’t sure what “normal” is but you can at least compare your hives to each other.
With this I ended up making a few trips in February down to my local bee store. For my birthday I had been given some hive equipment and it was time to order the bees. As it came down to it I was rather late in the game to be ordering bees, and so I was told that mine would come in late. I ended up ordering a package (think about a shoe box size, screens on the two long ends filled with 3 pounds of bees) and a nuc (nucleus hive, a little starter hive in a cardboard box, they have frames and bees and a queen and are already doing their thing.
I was told that the bees wouldn’t be arriving till late May, early June, so the waiting game begun. It was alright, I had some hives to build, frames to build, hives to paint. Plus I had to figure out where the hives would go. And there was time to read more, the more I read the more I realized that I don’t know very much at all about keeping bees. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel that I could do it, but I knew there would be a learning curve. I also spent a chunk of time watching youtube videos.
The Bees Arrive
In April I got a call that the package was in and ready. This one was headed for my the hive on my mom’s property. So I drove down and picked up this box. I was hooked. It was amazing to just watch this mass of bees crawl around in this little box. To be able to stick my nose right up close and see all these tiny creatures. I can tell you before that point I had never held that many bees in my hands before. Well I took them back and the next day I got them in their hive. I won’t go into details at this point, at some point I’ll do an article about installing bees. But it did involve dumping 3 pounds of bees into a hive, because at times bees behave like a liquid.
About a month later my nuc was ready. At this point I had been poking around this other hive for a few weeks and had more confidence. I hadn’t just read about doing some of this stuff, I had actually done some of it. I had bees that were happy and drawing out comb and a queen that was making little baby bees. I picked up my nuc and brought it back here and installed that as well.
Wrapping It Up
I could call myself a beekeeper. After further reflection I have to say that I’m a bee haver. I’m still working with these hives and I’m doing all I can to get them through the winter. If I can get my hives into next spring with a functional colony then I’ll be a beekeeper. But I have gone a long way from thinking put the bees in the box and then go get honey.
Don’t worry, I’ve got more to write. I know at this point I need to get you all caught up on where my hives are now, then I plan to do a weekly or biweekly or so hive update for anyone that is interested. Plus I will have to tell the story of the one time I was mowing and ended up taking out my hive. But that’s a tale for a later day.