What 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.
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.
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.
Mother Nature adds her two cents.