bees

Bees on the Way

We are most definitely beginner beekeepers. We are diving in this year with our first hives. And this is our guide:

Well, and a Beekeeping for Beginners class. I was 5th on the waiting list but luckily got into the class a day before it was to begin. Phew! I didn’t want to put my entire trust into my ability to digest a battered book from the library.

The class, now complete, was well worthwhile. Put on by the Richmond Beekeepers Association and held at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, it never hurts when there is also a fabulous orchid exhibit going on. I have to share that in the first class our instructor gazed out at his pupils and said it was really great to see people interested in beekeeping, especially the younger folks. I sat up straighter in my seat when he said this, beaming in my youthful enthusiasm for my new hobby. Then I realized that he wasn’t looking at me. He was nodding and smiling at the cute little 9 year old in the front row. At the sweet little boy scout in the back row, no doubt working on his Love of Apiaries merit badge. Me? I was just one of the old fogies. So I slouched back down in my seat, pen at the ready for note-taking, determined to learn despite my age.

We ordered two hives (that consists of three hive boxes each, with ten frames per box) and two packages of bees (they arrive April 7th). The bees build comb on the frames and fill the cells with pollen, nectar, and eggs. I’m sure I’ll blog tirelessly about that process in the future as I get to watch it play out, so for now I will just share the assembly and preparation process. Here are some individual boxes:

Don’t get hung up on the fact that they appear to be levitating. I rotated the photo.

They get painted a light color so that in the summer they don’t become solar ovens. That would kill the bees. These white ones, below, are stacked caddy-corner because the paint was drying. (Since other farm activities are limited on a rainy day, we chose to use a rainy day to paint them on the back porch and brought them inside to dry.) The plain white drives me a bit nuts, so I plan to exercise my very limited artistic ability to fancy them up a bit. Stars might be as intricate as I get.

The ten frames sit in each box like so:

Each frame has a wax and wire foundation in it to give the bees a head start for the season. I’ve had the book Honeybee Democracy recommended, however, and I’ve heard that it gives reason to think about not forcing these foundation guides on one’s bees. So in the future I think I’ll play around with giving them empty frames to build upon.

That was the cooking show version – a cut to the final product at the end. Here’s a look at the (rather laborious) process of assembling the frame:

After we’d done 80% of them, my class had an equipment assembly lesson. Guess what: Everyone uses a jig to make assembly easier. A quick description to Dan and he whipped one up. He sure is handy.

Since no post is complete without showing the effects of children on farming, see below for the result when hive assembly day is also the children’s painting day:

Have no fear – it cleaned right up and is on the far right in the photo above. The children always keep things colorful.

I won’t pontificate on bee issues right now – I’m sure that will come out as our first season as beekeepers unfolds. Stay tuned!

Bees arrive April 7th. That day should be interesting. The only problem for you devoted blog readers is that I’m the one trained on installing the bees and Dan might not remember how to work the camera, what with my recent designation as farm photographer. Luckily, he’s a quick study and we’ll try to get some good shots of the action.

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