Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bees Knees


It seems to be the Shaffer Way to get into new things and projects and such. This time, in an uncharacteristic twist, I was not fully responsible for heading in another new direction!

The Wife has had an interest in beekeeping since high school. So imagine my surprise when during a conversation at a Fleet Farm last summer while we were looking at beekeeping supplies on a shelf, she asked me what I thought about maybe starting a hive.

Now, to be fair, I had mentioned my interest in bees a few times, although it was more putting out feelers rather than seriously considering the idea. After all, when it comes to having ideas that turn the household upside down for a bit, I am the champ. Tearing up half the front yard for a garden, check. Starting my own business, check. Paddling the Mississippi River, RC airplanes, birdhouses...check, check and check.

Yet here was my beautiful wife, finally joining me in the "crazy" idea department!

Start a beehive!?! Even before the shock had dissipated, I agreed whole heartedly. We bought a book on beekeeping for newbies, and the research began in earnest.

We started with the basics. Learning what the parts were called, hive bodies, supers, frames, etc. Then there was learning about the bees. Did you know that there are different races of European honey bees? Italian, Carniolan, Russian, Caucasian... All with different attributes and different behaviors. Which ones will do best in Minnesota? Which are gentle? Which are good producers of the sweet stuff?  So many questions and so much research!

As summer turned to winter and winter to spring, we had decisions to make. Believe it or not, just deciding which hive to start out with can be a challenge. Which company to order from? Assembled or unassembled? Beginner kit or order separate stuff? After all, every beginner kit is different from company to company, and some companies even have multiple beginner kits to choose from! All of them had their pros and cons.

Finally, after being befuddled and overwhelmed by so many choices for so long, we rolled the dice and paid our money. Best price for the most necessaries, etc. etc. And within a few short days, the first part of our equipment arrived on our doorstep.
Our first hive!

We also are now the proud owners of a bee jacket with a mesh hood and some special gloves to keep the little bees from getting to us as we tend to their home. We are still waiting on some other essential gear. A smoker, a queen extruder, another protective suit some tools. Hopefully those will be here soon as well.

We won't be using all of this at once, of course. Once the bees arrive we'll be using the bottom taller boxes, called hive bodies. This is where the our Carnolian Queen will hopefully be laying many eggs and raising new little bees for the future. Then, as our little colony grows, we will add the top, shallower boxes, called honey supers, where the worker bees will pack away that sweet, golden honey for the future.

This first season we will more than likely let the bees keep the great majority of their labors, just to ensure they can winter over well. If they do well and are strong next spring, we will start harvesting the liquid gold! That seems like a long way down the road, but time will probably pass quickly.

So - a new adventure starting at our house! Though I am not looking forward to the inevitable stings we will have to endure, I am looking forward to home grown honey!

We will be bringing a package of bees home on May 2nd and introducing them to their new home. Three pounds of honeybees and their new little queen. (Three pounds is several thousand bees, so that should be exciting!)  I'll post again when they arrive, I'm sure.