Last Saturday morning, Stuart and I were both up bright and early, and boy, were we nervous. On a scale of 1-10, we were probably running at about 11 or 12! The reason for this – we would be bringing our first hive home that afternoon. Bridging that gap between theory and practice was nerve-wracking, to say nothing about having a hive IN THE CAR WITH US!!
First Few Days As Beekeepers
On the hour long drive to Somerset stomachs were churning. We were to meet with Gary Rankin of The Bee Place for a 4 hour lesson before bring our bees home. It was was a pleasant drive and we were able to laugh at the road signs telling us to “Hippety-hop safely down the road” – happy Easter messages from TXDoT.
As usual, we got to Somerset early and were able to chat with the other newbie Beekeepers. A little more relaxation followed – we were all in the same boat together! It was obvious that Gary has a love of bees and wanted us to become good stewards for our bees. He told us that our job is to make sure that our bees have the resources that they need to be successful. Think that I’ve written before about attitude being so important, his words resonated strongly with us.
He also spoke about the importance of watching the seasons and weather rather than using dates from the calendar. Makes sense – bees don’t know the date, all they have to go on is the seasons and the weather. In my last blog, I wrote about this exact thing. Makes me very hopeful that I can become a good Beekeeper, or rather Bee Steward!
By the end of the classroom session I was feeling quite ready to meet the bees in person. So to the convoy for the drive a few miles down the road to Gary’s Bee Yard. I’m feeling like a kid on the way to the candy store, good thing Stuart was driving!
The weather was delightful and the Bee Yard was beautiful, surrounded by mesquite trees against a blue, blue sky. My very first impression when we got out of the car was the noise. Hundreds of beehives makes for an awful lot of buzzing. I’m getting really, really excited now. Stuart keeps a calm demeanor – I guess we balance each other out!
The first thing Gary showed us once we were suited up, was how to best light a smoker. Once this was done we walked over to some of his hives. He opened one up to shows us the frames, eggs, larvae, the queen, pollen and capped honey. All of us new Beekeepers were able to handle the frames/bees, pass them around and get comfortable with how to do this.
At one point he dug a little bit of mesquite honey out of a frame with his hive tool. Who wants to try some?, he said.
Excitable me was there like a shot.
And then I fell for what is probable the oldest beekeeper trick in the book. My finger was heading towards my mouth when I realized that I was wearing a veil!!
Lucky, I can laugh at myself when I haven’t engaged my brain.
Anyway, a quick bit of unzipping and my finger did find it’s way into my mouth – indescribably amazing taste. Nothing like fresh, warm honey straight from the hive.
We did have a net to contain our bees but were assured that our bees were secure and any hangers on would fly out of the window as both the air conditioner and our speed got going, Absolutely true, we didn’t have a bee buzzing around anywhere. I was still very much aware that I had a box of bees at the back of the mini van – careful driving was the order of the day. Did not want any mishaps there! Very responsible drivers obeying TXDoT advice.
End of the Day
At the end of a very uneventful drive home, the last thing we needed to do was transfer our bees into their new home. Stuart and I suited up and got out smoker going. One thing I didn’t put on was my gloves. Earlier, I’d watched Gary handle his frames without gloves, confident but calm. I did not want to be scared of our bees so I was kinda testing myself by trying to channel the way he’d handled his frames. It was perhaps stupid, but all I was risking was a sting or two. These bees are going into our Langstroth hive but may eventually transfer into a horizontal hive (when Stuart builds it!).
I admit, it was a little scary looking down at the 5 frames in the nuc box, bees crawling all over the place. After taking a deep breath I moved my hand gently towards the frame. Bees moved out of the way automatically and I didn’t once feel that I was going to squash one.
We did a quick inspection of our frames: saw our queen, forgot to look for eggs. Guess nerves were coming into play again!
Once the frames were transferred, we just put the lid on their hive and left them to settle down. A few hours later, just before sundown, we walked down to say good night to our new bees. There was gentle activity in and out of the hive – nothing dramatic, but that we felt was a good thing. Felt we deserved a glass of wine to celebrate!
Conclusion After First Few Days As Beekeepers
Sunday & Monday were odd days weather wise. Dull and quite breezy in the mornings, hot and breezy in the afternoons. It is so very tempting to peek inside the hive but NO! We knew they had food until they were able to locate their own supplies. The bees had also, quickly, found the little pond I’d built for them. Definitely a success. I did build up the “beach” area of the pond to make absolutely sure that the bees wouldn’t drown.
Late afternoon each day we would walk down to the hive and just watch the workers coming and going. On Sunday we happily watched them coming into the hive with masses of a really orange pollen on their legs. If you click on the little video clip below from Monday evening, you can clearly see these busy workers coming in with their pollen load.
Video link: Bees with Pollen
Stuart and I are beekeepers!
These first few days have been very emotional, tense, exciting, satisfying, stingless. It will be very interesting to see how things go over the summer. We’re actually getting a second hive this Thursday through our local bee community. This hive will go into a horizontal top bar hive.
Our wish is that by the Fall we’ll have strong and healthy bee colonies ready for winter. An extra bonus will be a little bit of honey, but we’re not expecting much this year.