Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Setting up the hives....

It is that time of year again. Time to order bees, set up hives and anticipate the flow of honey this summer and fall. We lost both of our hives last year to mites and wax moths. I have done some studying this winter and found that there are some herbs and essential oils that can help with both of those predators. I thought I would share the process of setting up an apiary for those of you who might like to add this project to your homestead. Bees are a great homeshooling project. Bees and their society are a wonderful testimony of God. Your local extension office will probably have some free literature for those of you who might be interested.

Our first step this year was to prepare the site. The ground was tiled and will be planted into spearmint. This is to help with the mite problem. We will also be putting Spearmint essential oil into some of their food supply. As you can see, we then set up concrete blocks for the hives to sit on. This keeps the hives up off of the ground. This helps keep the hive entrance free for the bees to fly in and out of and also keeps them out of the reach of ground predators. Skunks will make noise at the front of the hive and wait for the bees to come out...then they eat the bees! I am not sure why the stingers don't bother one has answered that question for me. Of course, Doegee is right there making sure the boys are o.k.

Earlier in the year, we cleaned hives, built frames and filled them with foundation in preparation for this time. The hive bodies are sitting in the front of the tilled area waiting to be placed on the stands.

The bees will be poured into the hive bodies and then eventually smaller boxes, called supers, will be placed on top of the hive bodies. This is where all that delicious honey will be placed! Honey extracting day is always a sweet and sticky day :) We use our honey to sweeten our drinks, to bake our bread and to cook with.

Here Josiah and Elijah are setting the hive bodies on their bottom boards and making sure they are centered correctly. They also check to see that all the frames are in place and hanging correctly. We use a thin sheet of foundation in each frame. This acts as a "starter" sheet for the bees to fill with wax and honey. It also guides them to building in the right place so that they don't end up sealing all of your frames together.The foundation is made of pure beeswax that has been imprinted with the hexogonal shape that bees love.

The hives are now ready for the bees! The MOST IMPORTANT next step is suiting up. I know many bee keepers who work in gloves and a veil....but me....I'm a wimp and want to be covered head to toe with protection when you are talking about thousands of bees....and I want my kids covered too.

Here Elijah is getting ready to really work bees for the first time. He is modeling the wonderful suit that, if properly zipped and velcroed, will keep your skin away from the bees. This is of crucial importance in my book. I have been able to overcome my fear of bees to a great extent by learning about them. I no longer run screaming into the house when I see a bee...I can actually work next to them in the garden....I don't like it but I can do it. However, when they out number me 30,000 to one.....I LOVE THE SUIT!!!

There was this one year....we had a new queen. The queen sets the tone for the whole hive. Sort of the "If momma isn't happy then no one is happy" idea. Well this queen was NOT happy. She must have been one of the meanest creatures ever created. Therefor her hive was the same way. My oldest son called them Mafia hit bees. They WANTED to sting you...never mind that it cost them their life...they didn't care!! They would eyeball you and begin to move in...and they always went for the head! We never left the house without a hat...once they locked on you as a target they began to chase....not fly towards you, mind you, I mean CHASE YOU...for LONG DISTANCES!! I remember hearing my oldest boy, then 17 at the time, screaming outside...he was racing around the house yelling for me to open the door on the next pass....there were several small dark spots chasing him at head level. Good thing he was a fast runner since he is allergic to stings. He beat them to the door and was safe. That was the last straw! I could either choose to remain a recluse for the rest of the summer or I could choose to commit murder....I chose murder.

We ordered a new queen...then, under the cover of darkness a covert operation took place. Gleefully we searched the crowd for the boss....she was easy to spot. Ruthlessly we captured her, murdered her in cold blood and dropped her lifeless body on the proper burial for such a savage beast! (I must confess here that I actually did the happy dance!). We installed the boss of our choosing...we were assured that she would be a kinder and gentler ruler. Within a few days she had calmed the seething population....they adored her...they wanted to be just like her....and peace again ruled over Sweet Hollow Farm. Once again it was safe to venture outdoors....we even hung up our hats!

Meet the bees on my next post!


  1. Scott and I would love to get bees someday! Thank you for sharing about how to get them all set up! It will be interesting to read your next post, too!

    A question: About how much does it cost to get set up with bees and hives and such?

  2. We have so many buzzing, stinging insects on our property, thanks to the myriad of lilacs and other flowers the previous owners planted. It would be nice to make use of all these flowering plants by raising bees but dh is not too enthused. It does sound like a lucrative business, though, and quite fascinating as well. I've always loved to watch the social insects like bees and ants as they go about their work. Can't wait to hear more!

  3. Hi! I have been reading for a day or two now and wow...your blog is such an inspiration and encouragement to me besides all that I am learning!

    It is my heart's desire to one day have a small homestead but realize that this is if the Lord allows...
    I am not getting any younger and hope that I will have a chance to experience my fondest dream!

    Have a blessed day!

  4. Regarding varroa mites and trachial mites and essential oils. Here's a useful link:

  5. Thanks for all the information about bees. Our bees should arrive in a couple of weeks or so, and we are novices in the whole process. It is great to see what you are doing!

  6. Oh, my. I think I will just READ about bees and buy the honey at the store!!! Very interesting post, though! :)

  7. Michelle and Emily,
    It really isn't that difficult - just be sure to wear the suit! The taste of raw honey is so much better than what you can buy in the stores!

    I hope all goes well with your bee adventure!

    Thanks so much!

    Thanks for the great link!

    I added the prices to the next blog entry to give you an idea :)


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