Spring is such a busy time for use here at the P Patch! With both of us working outside the home, all of our free time in the spring is spent preparing the garden, planting, working with the hives, making repairs and improvements, and occasionally–mowing the lawn 🙂
We are in our third year keeping bees now. Our first year didn’t really count because someone else was tending to the hives on our property and we just helped and observed. The pressures of surviving the hives fell upon the shoulders of someone else… Until one day…
Last spring the hives were gifted to us and so we set out to bee good bee parents to our girls, and joined our amazingly active, supportive, and informative local bee club. We found a mentor, attended classes and meetings, made new friends, and were able to purchase bees at a group rate, which is a great asset to a bee keeper. We did well and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. We realize we are a more lacksidasical-type bee keeper thinking bees will do what they will do, and we just try to love and support them without much meddling. Our style is partially attributed to the style of hive we keep, which is a French-style of hive called, Warre, which is a hive without frames. The way I understand it is that it is a more natural method of bee keeping, which we like, since one of our primary purposes in bee-keeping is to have bees in an effort to support the overall bee population and health. We like that we get honey and wax, but our bees mean more to us than just what we harvest from them. They are our friends 🙂
The primary goal of bee keeping is to survive your hives through the winter, which, in our first year we only survived one, and last year we survived two; but one died at the last minute, so we were back to one 🙁 Darn! We ordered two packages this year of bees from our bee club, and we installed them this past weekend. Here’s what the process looked like:
This is what the package of bees looks like when we pick it up from the club.. We make a bulk order and someone drives down to a farm in California and collects hundreds of these boxes on a trailer for club members. It’s awesome!
The queen is in a separate cage in the center of the box. the bees cluster around her and have been together for a few days at this point, so they know her scent. There is a metal can full of who knows what, (sugar water–hopefully), that keeps the bees alive until we get them. We mist them with sugar water at this point to fill their belly and make them more docile for the install.
We carefully remove the can from the box to access the queen. If you look closely you will see a small silver tab on the box. that is anchoring the queen. Once the can is removed we can slide her out.
Here is the extracted queen. She is marked in red. She is quite larger than all of the others 🙂 We will turn the cage vertically and she will climb to the top. We carefully remove the plug that holds her in and replace it with a candy plug that the worker bees will chew through to free her.
Husband has removed on of the bars in the center of the box and there is old, (moldy) already built come from the recently departed colony that lived in this hive. Husband chips away at a bit of the comb and inserts the queen cage in the box. the same tab that held her in place in her transport box holds her in place in the hive. Basically, her cage hangs from one of the wooden slats. When the worker bees move into the hive, following her scent, they will begin to clean the old comb and inhabit it. They are thankful to have it and to not have to build it 🙂 They amazingly clean the PNW mold from it also. They send balls of refuse out the door at the bottom of the hive. it is so cool to watch!
This is what it looks like a while later. Many bees have made it down into the hive. We left it until dusk, and then added an empty box around it all and added the hive lid to keep them warm while they still entered the hive. They took an awful long time to enter the hive this year, but all seemed to have made it eventually. We started late afternoon to discourage swarming or them flying away. We also use a mason jar upside down with holes poked in it to feed them sugar water in these early weeks of spring. I bet they don’t need much help this year since it has been so mild and lovely. Some of their first sources of food are dandelion and we have an abundance of dandelion since the lawn mower is busted… maybe it will stay busted all year 🙂
In honor of our friends and their amazing bounty they provide for us, I wanted to work with some of the wax we had harvested last year. I made some really amazing beeswax fabric, which is a naturally waterproof fabric that is multi-purpose, reusable, and fantastic as a food wrap especially. To check out my tutorial, you’ll have to visit Amy at A Blossoming Life. I authored my VERY FIRST GUEST POST for her, and I don’t want you to miss this super frugal, natural and fun DIY, so click on over and check it out!
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Shared With: LHITS DIY Linky, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting Wednesday