Whew. Yesterday was a busy day! Hubby and I were up at six to get our animals fed and out before driving out to my parent’s farm. Why so early? After what seemed like forever, our bees had finally arrived from Georgia! Dad left his house at seven-thirty to pick up his package and mine. When we got there dad was all set up to go and we determined I would watch him install and then go home and do my own package. We both ordered a four pound box of Russian bees, even though originally I had planned on Italians. Italians are said to be gentler, however I suppose if you get stung it doesn’t matter which species it is. Between dad’s advice and the information I gathered I decided on the Russians. They are more disease and mite resistant and adapt well to top bar hives, both of which were important to me. Not nearly as much though, as the fact that they don’t steal hives. Italians on the other hand will steal a weaker hive so they don’t have to work as much for honey. Lazy bees. ha ha ha.
Dad offered me a choice of a Top bar hive and a Commercial hive. I chose a Kenya style top bar hive because It is a more natural approach to beekeeping. In my opinion (limited though it is) Commercial hives force bees to make honey in a way that is convenient for us but not for them. Kenya TBH (Top Bar Hives), allow the bees to choose their own comb making style, depth and to some degree width.
I have met with some quizzical looks, a lot of questions and some downright opposition for this choice. I am forced to conclude that people fear what they don’t understand. Of all the things that I have been told about TBH’s this amuses me the most. “You just won’t get very much honey.” ha ha wanna bet! Ok so I can’t use a traditional extractor and whir my honeycomb about in a large barrel, but I can press it. Rather inexpensively my hubby can make me a press from a scissor car jack and a 5 gallon bucket. The best thing about pressing? The wax is left spotless and ready to be used for candles, hubby’s woodworking or trading with my mom for soap, lotion or lip balm. (which disappear rapidly around here)
Oh one more, this from a seasoned BeeKeeper: “It is just mean to make the bees build new comb every year.” wow really? Goodness, please don’t run out and tell the wild bees this! We will have bee mutiny on our hands! ha ha ha This one just makes me shake my head. Some people are so smart they are dumb. First of all the only comb they need to rebuild next year is the honey stores. The brood (babies) can be reused by the bees for a couple years. The difference here is that the bees are able to make each pocket for their brood the exact size they want and aren’t forced to follow the stamped pattern that comes in a commercial frame. In my case, since the bees can pick a size naturally suited to them, verroa mites are less of a problem. Do TBH still get mites? Sure, it’s nature, if there is food there will be predators.
My bees will be raised as naturally as I can. I say this because in their (three mile radius) feeding area there are at least two Genetically Modified Corn farms. They have access to GMO corn which I can not prevent but they will not be medicated, fed bleach (yeah they do that) or given any other chemical. Powdered sugar, garlic and essential oils will be their defensive line-up.
Now having chatted your ear off (again) about the bees, lets get down to the install and some pictures!
We got home yesterday afternoon with the new hive and and the package of bees and hubby set to work. He measured and cut four legs for the hive and secured them at about four foot high for me to easily work my hive from a standing position. I cut two tree branches, that I was supposed to remove last weekend and planted sunflowers just beside the bee “yard”. We gathered supplies and Hubby who is highly allergic suited up in a full body suit complete with gloves to take pictures. I am so proud of him! I only wear a jacket and veil, though I did wear gloves on my install. I set all but five of my top bars on the hive and took my queen out of the buzzing box of bees. She is in her own box and originally I thought this meant she would be alone. She had at least five maids with her. 2011 is the year of white apparently since she had a big white circle on her rump. I got a marked Queen so I knew what to look for.
At this point I thought I’d try a method not normally recommended. I let my queen out of her box. It can take a whole week for her maids to eat through the candy and release her. I know, I know you are thinking, this is your first time what were you thinking?? Well the decision was partially made for me, her screen on her box was coming loose so I pulled it up shook her into the hive and grabbed the rest of the bees. They poured out so easy it was like I’d done this a hundred times before. Ah, except the momentary panic when my queen was airborne her little white dot shining against the blue sky. Before I closed up the top though she had decided the hive must not be so bad and went back inside. Whew.
All was well until I decided to bring a cement block over to feed the bees, without my jacket. I got within three feet when one of the girls smelled the organic coconut oil in my hair and decided I must be a bee snack. She was not to be deterred. I ran around the yard like a demented pony, flicking and shaking my head. I am not sure what made her give up, but she did and all without stinging me.
The install went easy and I think mostly that is in credit to the fact that I have never been stung to my memory and thus have no inherent fear of bees. Perhaps if I am ever to be stung, a probable inevitability of beekeeping, that will change. Until then I am happy to see they have claimed the hive as their own and in a week perhaps the Queen will set about making lots of babies to continue on their legacy next year.
And now for those pictures!