Monday, June 16, 2008

April 16 - Honeybees! (photos)

As part of our project, we’ll be using no refined sugar (from beet or cane) this year. We will all miss some of the treats we make with it but are looking forward to all of the wonderful new things we’ll develop and recipes we’ll find that use honey – local honey.

Kevin’s sister, Gwen, lives in Alaska and on one trip to visit her he met her friends who kept bees every summer (they can’t over-winter very well in the extreme cold). He was fascinated and decided to try his hand at hobby beekeeping. Ten years ago, he hived his first package of bees and I happened to be visiting and so got to watch (I was living in Wisconsin at that time). For many years, he had great honey flows, eventually adding a second hive and building his skills and his equipment. We even gave jars of honeyed almonds as favors at our wedding in 2000! A few years later, both hives died out over winter (different years) so we haven’t had our own source of honey for a while but are still finishing the final few jars.

This year we decided to re-establish our honeybee colonies, with me taking the lead as beekeeper. I ordered new hive bodies and supers (the part that holds the honey for us, as opposed to that which we leave for the bees) since we didn’t know what had caused the colonies to die out. On April 15th, Kai and I drove down to Dadant and Sons in Hamilton, IL (see web links) to pick up the new hives and two new colonies of bees. The following day we hived the bees.

The bees spent the night in the cages they came in on the counter in our kitchen before being “hived” and moving in to their new homes. It was a family affair and Neva was excited to help move the “sisters” into their hives (we had explained to her that the worker bees were girls).
It is important to realize that we have lost many of our native pollinators and, so, honeybees are important across the country. They aren’t aggressive, in fact, they are bred to be docile, and they won’t sting you unless truly provoked. I also tried to order some native Mason or Blue Orchard bees to place near our apple trees (planted by Kevin’s dad) but I was too late for the year. I plan to order some for next spring so as to contribute to reestablishing the native bee population as well. I will also attend a workshop entitled On Saving the Honeybee at Angelic Organics Learning Center in mid-May.
We don't know if we (or should I say the bees) will be able to produce all the honey we need for the year but we will purchase locally what we can't produce.

Throughout the post are some photos of the hiving process. *Update: I am happy to report that as of mid-June, the colonies are both going strong, having more than doubled in size, and that I have added the first supers last week.


The Mom said...

This is way too cool! Yay for you all for going local -- I can't wait to hear more about it!

UU Jerri said...

I hear there is another species overtaking the "honey bees." Did you hear about this?

UU Jerri said...

You're so like Barbara Kingsolver!!!!!

Lenae said...

In response to uu jerri -

I'm not sure about the newer species. I've read about many current threats to honeybees (colony collapse disorder, africanization, mites and such) but I'm not aware of this.

Do you have any more information?

I do intend to introduce some native bees to my yard as well but I was too late in seeking them out to get some for this year (all those that were raised were already sold). I hope they will help with pollination of our apple and plum trees (and the cherry, peach, and walnut we just planted - in many years when they are ready to bear fruit!). Although, I notice a bumper crop of apples and plums this year, the like of which we haven't seen since the last time there were honeybees here).