Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meet the Bees!

Here are this years bees! You are looking at three packages of bees. Each package weighs about 3 lbs. There are approximately 10,000 bees in each package. Now you need to imagine the hum of 30,000 bees! A package of bees cost about $65 this year. Note the screened sides - good for the bees but not near secure enough for me!

To get started in beekeeping you need at least one package of bees and a hive with at least one super. A super is a shallow box that sits on top of the hive body. This is where the bees store their honey. A strong and healthy hive, during a good season, can fill several supers full of honey.!
I believe that you can get a complete hive set up for less than a hundred dollars. For our family it has been a wonderful investment - pure, raw, honey without pesticides or antibiotics!

At the top of the box is a small container that houses the queen and her worker bees. These bees feed the queen and groom her. They meet her every need...what a life! We hope that we have docile queens this year. If not...well...we know what to do :)

In this close up picture you can see the bees swarming around the queen's area. It is almost
nightfall - a good time to put bees in the hive. This gives them time in the hive before they start leaving to forage for food. By morning they will have accepted the hive as home. We also feed them either honey or a syrup made from water and sugar until there is sufficient food available for them to find on their own.

Now it is time to pour the bees into the hive. You literally uncap the box and pour them out like water! This is when you wear THE SUIT!! Nothing like head to toe protection! Elijah was fascinated with the vibration of the bees humming....so...like any normal (?) 8 year old he decided to scoop up a handful and see what they felt like....(where did this child come from?)

I can work bees, I can work next to bees, I can watch bees....but....I can not play with bees!
Elijah however was thrilled...he thought it was
the coolest sensation....(although now he admits he was a little scared). He could feel the vibrations and satisfied his curiosity. He dropped them back into the hive and had to shake and brush them gently to get them off of him - they seemed to like him and didn't want to leave! We didn't realize at the time that one of his velcro flaps on the suit wasn't closed completely. He ended up with a bee in his shirt...which he didn't notice till he was headed for the shower...OUCH! Right on the belly!

At the end of the day, all the bees are in their hives and Elijah and Siah can look back on a job well done! You can see the reflection of light on the feeders on the front of the hives.

I am looking forward to June when we bring out the extractor and start turning the handle to produce lots of glorious honey! We filter it through a double screen to keep out the pieces of wax and bee trash. The filter fits over a 5 gallon bucket with a honey gate on it. When the bucket is full it goes onto the counter, we open the gate and let the honey flow into 1/2 gallon containers.

We store them this way in the pantry. We are adding a hive this year to keep up with our honey needs. I use it in teas, cooking, baking, my home made cough syrup and in the 8 loaves of bread I bake each week. This year I hope we have several swarms that we can capture to establish some additional hives.

I'll let you know if we end up with Mafia bees again...if we do....well...you know where I will be some dark night!


  1. WOW! Thank you for such a wonderful infomative post!

  2. Hey Farm Girl!

    Love the info on beekeeping (love your whole blog!); hope you keep it coming. I've decided to add bees to my farm plan and have signed up for my first bee-keeping course. I'm not sure I'll have a hive this year...we'll see.

    1 month left of full-time work and then another of part-timne work and it's back to the farm - it's getting closer all the time! WOOHOO!


  3. Hmmm....I'm getting a hankering to own some bees and it's all your fault, Cheri! ;^D Wonder if my husband would change his mind after reading your posts on the subject. We do use quite a bit of honey in baking and such. I currently buy local raw honey from a health food store. It would be so neat if we had our very own source, though. A hundred dollars or so sounds pretty reasonable....but what about the cost of suits?

    I love the photo and description of your son holding the bees. I can see my daughter wanting to do that. Have you read Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter? In one part it describes how bees can dislike certain people and have an affinity for others. Maybe your son has that special touch!

  4. Patti,

    I'll do the happy dance with you!

    Get bees! Truly they are wonderful and the honey is great. You can also avoid the antibiotics/pesticides that almost all beekeepers use...GO FOR IT! I think the suit was around $100...worth every penny! Check out Brushy Mountain Bee Farm in N.C.!

  5. Well now I am seriously interested in getting some bees but a little scared too!

    I just love coming to your blog, I am learning so much!

  6. What a fantastic pictoral lesson in beekeeping! Aspiring Agrarian was making a beehive for a friend...seems that bees seem to be a growing fascination!

    One of these days I'll have one too! We've been learning how to use honey in baking...its been wonderful!

  7. Cheri-

    Can you post a basic list of what is needed in beekeeping and honey processing and also a "nice to have list"? We want to start beekeeping next year and I would love to have all the supplies ready by then. Also a list of suppliers that you use would be great!!



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