My bees arrived today, and they are safely and (hopefully) successfully decanted into their new homes.
I probably should have started this the day I decided to start beekeeping, February 15th, 2014– the day of my beekeeping class, courtesy of Round Rock Honey (and a spectacular birthday gift from a friend). However, I was too busy reading and watching videos and buying supplies to think about documenting the experience, so here I am. A new suburban beekeeper, on day one of having the bees home.
First, let me give a rundown of the equipment I’m working with. At the recommendation of BeeTeacher Tom, I got most of my supplies through Mann Lake LTD, and ordered my bees from BeeWeaver Apiaries here in Texas.
I leaned a lot on Tom’s experience and recommendations, since people actually keeping bees in my area have a better idea of what to expect than a general-information book. Once I start attending meetings with the local beekeeper’s association, I’ll have even more bee buddies to ask questions!
Tom, as well as a lot of the books I’ve been reading, recommended starting with two hives, so you can compare them to judge the success or struggles of each hive. Tom also suggested starting with one deep and one regular super per hive.
I went ahead and ordered the Deluxe 10-Frame Beekeeping Starter Kit from Mann Lake, as well as the additional hive covers and bottom I’d need when splitting the two.
I ordered a couple of Boardman entrance feeders from BeeWeaver’s sister store, the BeeGoods Mercantile, when I placed the order for two packages of bees, back in February.
The beekeeping kit starter kit came with the excellent The Backyard Beekeeper, by Kim Flottum, an easy-to-read introductory guide. I’ve since purchased Flottum’s The Beekeeper’s Journal to assist with my paper records, and The Beekeeper’s Bible, by Stewart, Tabori, and Chang. So that’s my current library.
Preparations and Set-up
I stained and waterproofed the hives myself, rather than ordering them pre-painted. They ended up a rather cheery orange.
I set them up facing my back fence, entrances angled slightly away from one another. They’re sitting on top of two planks of wood, which are two cinderblocks off the ground– I’ve put them almost directly on top of their pairs of cinderblocks for load-bearing purposes, despite having a couple additional half-blocks supporting the center.
Since the hives were the same color and facing nearly, though not quite, the same direction, I left the blue plastic sheeting on top of the hive on the right (facing the yard from the house, not the hives themselves). So for my records, both here and on paper, they are now the blue and silver hives.
As any experienced beekeepers may notice with those pictures, I made a mistake right out the gate: having run out of white sugar while making the feed syrup, I said “What the heck?” and added some brown sugar.
DO NOT DO THIS.
I only left those feeders out there for about twenty minutes before becoming crippled with doubt, thankfully, and removed the feeders and sent my roommate for white sugar. Apparently bees get dysentery, and while I grew up thinking of honey as bee-spit, I’ve played too much Oregon Trail to want to muck around in that.
Luckily, in the meantime, I’d kept the feeders from the bee packages sitting near the hives, and had spritzed the bees pretty well (and repeatedly) with my $1 water bottle filled with proper sugar syrup.
The planks made it convenient, obviously, to tilt the cans so the bees could have access.
I’ve also set up a small table in the bees’ path, with what my mother will recognize as a crawfish tray from the Grand Casino Coushatta. It’s filled with water and featuring an upside-down grill wok so the bees can have access to fresh each day– any excuse to go sit by them for a minute, I tell you. There are lakes, ponds, and ditches filled with water nearby, and no swimming pools, but I’m going to figure out a better water system here soon anyway, or maybe an additional one. Have to be careful with mosquitoes in these here parts.
You’ll notice the trellises around the hives in the pictures further up. I’ve set up a little bee yard that serves multiple purposes:
- It helps shield the bees from neighbors,
- It keeps my roommate’s dog and any passing small mammals away from the hives, and
- It will allow me to grow some lovely perennial climbers to make my backyard smell nice and keep the bees happy. I’m thinking honeysuckle and jasmine. I do still need to hunt down some (non-climbing) bee balm, for the dual purposes of pleasing the bees and deterring mosquitoes.
Installation and Enjoyment
So I’d picked the bees up a little after ten, drove them the hour home in the boot of my little hatchback, and had them all set up right around noon. Then I spent an hour just watching them.
I’ve spent at least that much time again re-suited and out back, watching them more, in the four hours since I properly finished. And another hour or so inside on the couch or at my computer, gazing out at them. The orientation flights over the hives have mostly settled, and the yard seems calm. I won’t be opening the hives for a few days, and then just to see if they queens have made their way out of their boxes.
The Silver Queen was trickier, being the first I settled. I’d made the mistake of dropping her into the transport box while trying to get the feeder can out, and then was only able to get the cork out part of the way around her queen candy. When I check on Tuesday, I’ll be looking to see if that hive’s managed to get past the remnants I left in there and free her– it should be fine, but I do need to keep aware.
The Blue Queen was easy peasy– although I just realized I didn’t bother note the color that either of them were marked. Good thing I’ll be making a point of looking at them on Tuesday.
This journal’s an addition to my paper records– the latter will be about numbers and observations, and this will be more about discussing and understanding what I’m seeing, as well as what I’m feeling about this whole endeavor.
I’ll be ordering another beekeeping suit, as well as two modified bodies, from Mann Lake after my next paycheck. I want to give my bees more space for pollen and honey storage, and the extra suit will let my roommate, or any interested friends, come enjoy the drowsy peace of hanging with the hives.