Grit Blogs > I Do It My Way

Minding My Own Beeswax

JerryWhat comes to mind when you hear the word "bees"? Honey, beeswax, stings, killer bees, perhaps all of those things and more. My earliest memories of bees all involved somebody getting stung, usually me. So it was with some trepidation when my wife and I decided to become beekeepers. It started out as her idea, the goal being better pollination and increased vegetable production in our garden. Part of the motivation came about when we discovered one day that there were far fewer bees in our garden then we had seen in years past. We also noticed about the same time that we simply weren't getting as many vegetables from our garden as we had before when the bees were more plentiful. In a stroke of spontaneous human convergent thinking, a lightbulb went off in our heads at the same time. "Let's get bees!"

Once the decision was reached, we made a beeline to the bookstore, bought, read and reread a book on beekeeping, and anxiously awaited the day we could pick up our first package of bees from a local apiary.

As the pickup day approached, we discovered that we had a lot of prep work. A location for the hive had to be selected and prepared, not too much sun, access to plenty of water, a distance from the house and so on were all factors to consider. There were hives and frames to build. And there was “stuff” to buy; I almost forgot to mention the “stuff,” extractors, uncapping knives, buckets, gloves, veils, etc. At this point we began to have some second thoughts, but it was too late, the bees had already been ordered. We were beekeepers, even if we didn’t actually have the bees yet.

frame
A frame full of honey.

Finally, pickup day arrived! We drove to the apiary with barely contained excitement. When we arrived there were bees everywhere! It was slightly unnerving, but we collected our package of bees, placed them on the back seat of my truck and headed home, periodically opening the windows to let random bees escape. Fast forward a few months, and we are happily collecting our first honey, a full 5 gallons from one hive. We were ecstatic! The honey was beautiful and delicious. The bees were a tad angry.

honey
The sweet rewards of my girls' hard work.

Our beekeeping experience has had its trials and tribulations (stings, Colony Collapse Disorder, an aggressive hive, etc.), but it has become an exciting part of our family. It has brought our family closer together, because everybody pitches in to help, even my parents (by consuming a substantial amount in my dad’s coffee). What about the garden you ask? The bees love it, and we love all the veggies the bees help provide us.

hives
Mother Nature adds her two cents.

theiconoclast
4/20/2015 12:16:59 PM

Jim, I am sometimes easily distracted while working in my garden, a plant with lots of bug activity will do it every time. It seems I just gotta stop and go see what all the buzz is abo... OH, LOOK A SQUIRREL!!


jim
4/19/2015 7:49:56 AM

To both congratulations and I am also in the process of re-becoming a bee keeper. My last little dip into that area was when I was 12 and in the 6th grade and it was 4-H project. Doing pollinator research in my area, blocks of wood (scraps do fine or smaller logs destined for the wood shed---nothing pressure treated for obvious reasons) with drilled holes not all the way through are used by various species of carpenter bees. Where I live there is no shortage of those things! There are also, I am learning, a boatload of smaller bees that are also pollinators. Even sweat bees. I am also doing my best to keep all pesticides (even ant killers) off my property. I am also pushing myself to be free of chemical type fertilizers here as well. I will keep you both posted on my progress if you want to write and exchange ideas, triumphs and losses. Jim jwbgso@aol.com


theiconoclast
4/16/2015 9:15:55 AM

NebraskaDave, I'm still very much a novice beekeeper, but I don't mind sharing my experiences if it helps others. We also have tried to plant numerous plants and trees that attract a variety of pollinators. We have gotten into the habit of reserving a bed or two in our garden for flowers, and as a result we've seen an increasing number and variety of pollinators. It is a joy to visit the garden early in the day and see birds, butterflies, and various types of bees all happily going about their business. 3 plants in particular that seem to attract a large number of bees, etc... to our garden have been dill, broccoli and mustard greens. In about a month in getting a package of bees to replace a hive that I lost, I'm sure this event will generate enough drama to merit a post, LOL. Thanks for reading my post and I hope you will continue to find my blog informative/entertaining. Jerry


nebraskadave
4/11/2015 9:46:38 AM

Jerry, Welcome to the GRIT blogging community. Your knowledge and beginning journey through bee keeping will be very helpful for those thinking about starting bee colonies. I have thought about bees for garden pollination but don't really want to invest in all the equipment needed nor do I want to put in the work involved to keep bees. I have advertised to have bee keepers to setup and maintain the bees on my property and with not much in return except for pollination of the garden but so far no takers. I've decided to go another route with garden pollination. There are many other pollinators such as butterflies, ants, beetles, humming birds, and the list goes on. It' not just bees that pollinate. I'm on the hunt for flowers and plants that will attract those kinds of pollinators. ***** I wish you well with your bee journey and will be looking forward for updates in the future. Have a great honey pollinator day.