Friday, June 5, 2009

Honeybees...a new beginning!

This is the first year Josiah and Elijah have tackled honeybees.  We began attending meetings in late February.  We were fascinated....although we have had bees here on the farm previously they didn't fare well.  They died almost every year and we continually had to re-purchase bees in the spring....expensive and not how things are supposed to work!

We found out two of the main reasons why at our first meeting!  I share them here in the hopes it will help someone else avoid these mistakes.  The first hand-out we received showed two sketches....where to put your hives and where NOT to put your hives.  The correct place was on a rise with some trees for cover (during summer - not winter) and a close source of water.  It was explained to us that we might not have all those conditions but to search for a location that would provide as many as possible.

The sketch that showed where NOT to put your hives blew us away!  I think perhaps the artist visited our farm when we weren't home and sketched where our hives used to be!  At the bottom of a hill, under trees with a creek behind the literally looked like our former apiary!

Josiah asked his mentor to come out and give him some advice on where to place his hives....we certainly didn't want the wrong location.  She came, walked all over the farm and picked a place....right behind my greenhouse (oh joy!...right where I need to be all spring and early summer!).  Josiah leveled a place, built some supports for his hives and began to ready them.

All "wooden ware" for bees (hives, supers etc.) come as raw wood.  You need to paint everything that the bees aren't in contact with (the outside of the wooden ware) white or another light color of your choosing.  You don't want to get any paint on the inside of any of the boxes - bees are picky about their home and don't like our paint so we leave the interior decorating to them...besides....theirs tastes much better!  Josiah, Elijah and I set up a painting station in my Mom's basement (thank you Mom!) and began re-painting some old hive boxes after a thorough cleaning and scraping.  We also painted the new wooden ware that he was given.

We got everything ready and all of the hives set all we needed were the bees.  I got my gloves, hat and veil ready for the hour drive with bees in my car.  As it turned out, I didn't need them because it was snowing. Turns out that snow makes bees very sleepy and kind.  We picked them up and brought them home are their first pictures in our happy home...

6,000 bees!

We are so grateful to the two men at church and my Mom for believing in Josiah and Elijah and investing in their lives this way....the beginning of a business for two young boys...does it get any better than this?

The bees began to buzz in the basement.  We fed them sugar water....they buzzed louder...once they thawed out from the snow they didn't like their little apartments and wanted into the big diggs!  As far as I am concerned...that little bit of wire netting just doesn't seem strong enough to keep the bees from invading the basement!

We want out!

We couldn't put them in their hives for several days...we needed a day that was at least 55 degrees or above.  That day came and the boys took them down to their new apiary so the bees could "move in"!The hives in place!

A waiting hive...

Move in condition!

Elijah  sprayed the bees with sugar water so the bees began to groom themselves (and each other)...this makes them "pourable".  So, Josiah began to pour them into their new home.

Welcome home!

The boys worked their way down the row adding bees to each hive.  They were covered with bees but no one was stung.  Gotta love those head to toe suits!  Elijah has just about outgrown his and will be needing a new one.  Once those suits get tight they loose a lot of their protective power!

Last one!

Inside these hive bodies are 10 deep frames filled with wax foundation.  This gives the bees a good start on building out their comb.  On top of these hives are feeders.  The feeder box holds 2 to  3 gallons of sugar water.  When the bees arrive you need to feed them for awhile.  If there is nectar available outside, they will eat that before they touch the sugar water, so, you feed them till they stop eating.  This way you know they have enough of an outside supply.

Once they fill 7 frames of this hive body with brood (babies!), then you add another hive box.  This was the second mistake we learned about... that had never been done here.  Supers were always added which was incorrect.  The second hive box will be filled with honey...and you never touch it!  The bees need at least 60 lbs. of honey to feed a hive through the winter.  A hive box full of honey is between 60 and 80 lbs.  Without that the bees will die during the winter...every time!

Once the second hive box is full of honey then you can add a smaller box called a super.  This is what we get to harvest! Don't expect to harvest any honey the first year of keeping bees.  Unless there is an unusually strong nectar flow (honey flow) and you have exceptionally strong hives, it will be another year before you get to take any honey.  What a great lesson in patience and in working now for a future return on your investment!

There are many godly lessons you can learn by keeping bees.  Their society is fascinating and many of our Father's laws and principles are lived out inside the hive.  It makes a fascinating unit study for school with many life lessons.  If you can't keep a hive of bees (and many people in the suburbs do this in their own back yard!) then I encourage you to do a study next year and let our Father speak to your hearts through bees!

Stay tuned to find out what happened at the next bee meeting....what a rare gift to see....and I've got pictures...lots and lots of pictures!



  1. Rebecca van VegtenJune 5, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    That sounds so exciting. We are big fans of raw honey around here and would love to someday learn beekeeping.

    We were fascinated with an old Moody Science Classic DVD entitled City of Bees.

    We wish your boys all the best ~

  2. I'm not sure how I first came across your blog. I really enjoy the homestead lifestyle and my husband and I are in the process of trying to buy land now to start homesteading ourselves.

    We are fortunate enough to be friends with a man here in northern IL who teaches beekeeping. We're hoping to learn a lot from him and start keeping bees ourselves. I too have watched the Moody Science City of Bees video and was fascinated! I really appreciate how you brought attention to the fact that God teaches us so much about life through the very nature He created. I find that to be true about gardening too.

    I'll continue to enjoy your blog and am so happy for your boys. I do believe it is a wonderful way to learn about patience, responsibility and business. Great job!

  3. So far so good with our bees. Jim said the best thing he did this year was to purchase a very detailed book; it has changed the way he has done things. He switched the queens that came with the hives to Russian queens, so hopefully we will be able to winter them this year.

  4. I was fascinated by your blog about the bees. My father used to keep bees in our suburban back yard, which he had turned into a mini farm. I was not very interested back then in how it all worked. Now that I am much older, I have far more appreciation for the many things my father grew and nurtured in our yard. I wish he were still here so I could tell him that!

  5. May I recommend the book "Natural beekeeping : organic approaches to modern apiculture"
    by Conrad, Ross

    I read this one this past winter and I think there are some really helpful ideas and tips for reducing the reliance on chemical aids for mites, etc. I found it in our library.

  6. I live in West Tn. and was wondering if you registered your bees or is there anything extra you have to do? Which company did you order from? Bees are of great interest to me, as with a lot of other people I have found out, and I can't get enough of the info. I would love to know more. Thanks!

  7. Rebecca,
    We have that series and love that video!

    Thanks! I'll mention that to my readers!

    TN law states that all bee hives have to be registered. We are blessed enough to have a local bee supplier but we also like Brushy Mountain in NC, Dadant and Manlake.



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