Category Archives: Pre-bees

Installing Bees

The day has finally arrived. After months of preparation, it’s bee day!

We drove out to Bedillion Farm to pickup our first ever package of bees.

Package of Bees - My3Bees.com

Thankfully, family was available to watch the kids, because there were some stragglers that hung around outside the package and were flying around the backseat on the way home.

Package of Bees - My3Bees.com

Even after we removed the package from the car, the little guys stayed with the rest of the hive.

Want to know what a package of bees sounds like? Play the video below…

That’s a lot of wings flapping. The buzzing can be a bit intense when you first hear it, but after a while it’s almost calming.

Time to crack that thing open…

Opening a Bee Package - My3Bees

Once you remove the lid you’ll find a metal can that contains a sugar water mixture inside. The bees use this to sustain themselves while in the package. First step it to remove it.

After the can is removed, you can pull out the queen bee herself…

Queen Bee - My3Bees.com

See that box? Yep, she’s in there. Not just her, but some attendant bees as well.

Sidebar: What?! Not only were the great people at Bedillion able to capture the queen, but they were also able to locate the “attendant bees” and get them in there as well? Seriously?! We’ve got a lot to learn.

This is also a good time for the disclaimer: This is our first time with honeybees, so please don’t take what we did as gospel. While we’ve taken classes, read books, and watched other people do it, that doesn’t mean that what we’re doing is 100% correct. We’re simply doing what we’ve been told and are hoping for the best.

Once we removed the cork from the queens cage and positioned it between some frames, it was time for the REAL fun to begin.

Susan quickly gave the bees a gentle spray of sugar water. This keeps them from flying around too much and makes them focus on cleaning themselves rather than attacking the beekeeper (or the camera man).

After that, just pour them on in…

That might be one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in my 32 years on this earth.

Bees - My3Bees.com

Pile of Bees - My3Bees.com

Now it’s time to feed them. Since it’s still early spring, there aren’t many flowers that have blossomed enough to provide nectar and pollen for the bees to survive. Therefore, we need to feed them for a while using a sugar-water mixture in a pail. You just flip the pail upside down and the bees come and drink droplets off of the bottom.

Syrup Install 1

Syrup Install 2 - My3Bees.com

After that, all that’s left was to put an empty super around the pail, put the lid on the hive, and call it a day.

Final Hive - My3Bees.com

After less than an hour, all of the bees that were flying around the hive had found there way in and were settling into their new home.

The entire process was surprisingly far more simple and less stressful than we originally thought (it was most likely more stressful for the bees than it was for us).

We’ll keep an eye on them for the next few days. Apparently they can go through the sugar water REALLY quickly, so we’ll need to keep that stocked.

Lots more coming. We’re in the process of building a shed that we can use to house the bee equipment, so we’ll likely share that process as well. And in a few months we’re supposed to get our SECOND hive, which will be a nucleus rather than a package. Not sure what the difference is? Hang around to find out!

Plants for bees

Like most years, we kicked off 2015 by looking through the litany of seed catalogs that arrive in our mailbox.  We usually leaf through and select  a few vegetables for the garden, maybe a few annual flowers.  But this year, we have a new goal in mind: maximizing our crop potential while also providing great plants for our bees.

We started by cracking open our ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture book and researching plants that provide loads of pollen and nectar for our tiny winged friends.  Below are some plants that we decided to try out this year (in addition to others we already have established) with some details about how they impact our bee brethren.

Thyme

Plants for bees - Thyme

Thyme itself is a great herb that you can use either fresh or dried, and is often paired with other herbs like oregano, sage, or rosemary.  You can typically find it in recipes including pork, duck, lamb, and in Cajun and Creole cooking.

Thyme honey is popular in Greece and the Mediterranean where it’s been a favorite for thousands of years.  The honey has a reddish color and a strong flavor.

Sunflowers

Plants for bees - Sunflowers

Sunflowers and beekeepers apparently go way back, as the plants produce abundant amounts of nectar and pollen that are great for the bees.  The variety that we selected are known for producing large amounts of sunflower seeds as well, which we plan to enjoy throughout the season.

One word of caution about sunflowers: honey produced from sunflower nectar tends to crystalize more rapidly than some other plants, so you may need to harvest it as soon as possible.

Sage

Plants for bees - Sage

Sage is another herb with tons of uses that we just started experimenting with last year.

Sage honeys tend to be lighter in color and lower in moisture content, and is often blended with honey from other plants to improve the overall quality of the blend.

Unlike Sunflowers, sage honey is high in fructose and therefore is very slow to solidify.

Soybeans

Plants for bees - Soybeans

Like sage, honey from soybeans is also used in blends thanks to its light color and mild taste.

Soybeans are self-fertile plants, so honey bees aren’t necessary for pollination, but considering we like soybeans regardless, we figure it may be a win-win.

Blackberries

Plants for bees - Blackberries

We’re most interested in seeing how our blackberry plants perform considering that bees are required for pollination.  The variety we selected should flower in both the spring and late summer, and the abundant white flowers that they produce are ideal sources of nectar and pollen for bees.

We’ll be sure to do a follow-up post this fall to let everyone know how these plants worked (or didn’t) with the bees.

Primed and ready

Once everything was constructed, we set about priming and painting the supers so that we could get them in place prior to the ground freezing.  We also didn’t want to be painting beehives or positioning our boxes in 3 feet of snow.  Better to be proactive!

We primed the boxes with two coats of white, outdoor primer, followed up with a “sky blue” finish.  Apparently bees aren’t fond of hives that are too dark, so we tried to keep it as “cheerful” as possible.

Painting beehives
The kids wanted to help paint as well

 

Painting supers
You see him roll’n

Helpful tip, rather than painting each box individually, stack them as you’d have them in the hive.  Then simply roll on the primer and paint.  It makes the entire process go exponentially faster, and all you need to do to keep the boxes from sticking together is reposition, or “crack” them before they dry.

Painted beehives
Ready and waiting

You’ll notice that we have 2 hives with 2 large supers and 2 medium supers.  When we actually get our bees we’ll start with only two large supers in each hive until the bees have some time to establish themselves.  For now we’re keeping the remaining boxes outside as well since we’d prefer to not keep them in the garage where there are gas/oil fumes that may deter the bees.

Ultimately we’ll store the extra equipment in a shed… which hasn’t been built yet (another project for the spring).

The supers have arrived!

Woo Hoo!  Earlier this season we picked up our supers and other equipment from Joe over at Country Barn Farms.  He’s a fantastic resource for anyone who has questions pertaining to raising bees.  He also sells equipment and local queens.  Highly recommend.

Unassembled beehive supers
Lots and lots of pieces

As you can see , everything arrived unassembled.  So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work assembling supers and frames.

Finished frame with white foundation
Finished frame with white foundation

We opted for frames with foundation so that there’s a base for the bees to start.  Black foundation for the brood frames (where the queen lays the eggs), white foundation for the the honey frames.

The kids also got in on the fun.

Kids building bee supers
Our oldest wielding a hammer

As much as we’re using our first few hives as a learning experience for us, we’d also like it to be a learning experience for the kids.  So I put the boxes together, glued them, and put the nails where they needed to be, then the kids went to work.

 

 

By the end of the day, we had everything assembled and ready for the next phase… priming and painting.

Assembled supers
Ta-da!