An interesting conversation I had with the head beekeeper of the Ottawa Community Beekeepers Association stands out in my head. He told me to always be thinking about the next winter – in the fall, do the bees have enough honey stores in the hive? Winter is coming. Is there enough brood for the winter cluster? Winter is coming. In the summer, do the bees have enough to forage on? Winter is coming. Are the bee pests at a manageable level? Winter is coming. In the spring, is colony build up happening fast enough? Winter is coming. Is my queen healthy and strong? Winter is coming. The list goes on. He stressed to always be two steps ahead in terms of preparation. As with most things in life, my honey production will depend on my preparation and anticipating my bees needs.
These past few weeks have been busy. I got 5 more nucs last week, totaling 8 nucs now: 4 at our property, 2 at a farmhouse down the way, and 2 more next to some clover fields around the corner. I am filled with appreciation on how welcoming my family and the neighbors have been about this venture.
After an afternoon in a beeyard, trimming, tidying, and arranging bee equipment I was bagged and thought little of leaving my beekeeping apparel in a pile at the front door. Come morning I pick up my jacket from this pile and who lazily flies out but a stow-away honeybee! She lazily flew up the staircase to land on a window curtain high up on the wall, out of my reach. I laughed while wondering where she had hidden herself when I was wearing the coat.
Later on in the week with my Dad’s assistance we set-up another electric fence around 2 hives in a different bee yard. This location was previously a bee yard to another beekeeper but hadn’t been used in years. There were old, broken hive boxes, disheveled frame parts, some with comb still attached. As I walked around, saw and tidied up odds and ends of wooden-ware from years past and prepared the site for growth I felt like I was in the right place at the right time again.
More updates to follow as my bees settle in….
I became a beekeeper today with the arrival of my bees. It was an exhilarating day. I chose to get my bees from a local bee supplier, Mahmoud Elzeftawi at Forestdew Apiaries lives. I’m glad I chose to get the bees from a nearby location: driving with three nucs in the trunk sure made me nervous. When I picked up a box to move it, the buzzing and vibrations coming from the bees inside the box sent a thrill through me.
With the help of my parents and partner we prepared the hive site in the morning and installed the bees in the late afternoon. More photos, explanations and updates to come in the next couple of days.
We began putting together the hive boxes this weekend. After cumulatively drilling 284 pilot holes in the finger-joints of the box sides (day 1), we began gluing and nailing them together (day 2 & 3). Here is our progress so far:
I feel better knowing the bees will have comfortable quarters to live in. Even more luxurious quarters are going to be available after I get down to Sarnia to pick up the hives my Opa is constructing.
We have decided to start with white paint for the exterior this year. Every year subsequent to this we will paint new hives a different color, for example, 2017 orange, 2019 blue, to better keep track of which year each box was constructed. That will make judging which boxes need replacing first easier. Next task is to paint them (exterior only).
I am looking outside at a snowstorm. It is April 6 and it is snowstorming outside. Brrr. It has been too cold the past few days for any sap to flow. The forecast for tomorrow is promising for good sap run.
I am torn between feeling elated that I’ll be able to get at least one more boil in before the end of the maple syrup run, and feeling angst about the cold weather’s effect on the health of the bees’ that I am ordering. Talk about a new feeling, being worried about bees. The bees are not even in my possession yet and I am already worried about them. I must remember that the bees I am ordering from my local supplier, Mahmoud at Forestdew Honey (www.forestdewhoney.com), are overwintered in an indoor, climate controlled ‘beedome’ so they will not be subjected to the erratic weather conditions outside. The bees I have ordered are New World Carniolians. While half of the colonies I am getting will have imported queens, the other half will have Ontario queens. (My reasoning behind this: why not?) I will take note of which are which and make observations on whether the colonies featuring imported or domestic queens perform better. Courtesy of my Opa, the beeyard will host several homemade hives, as pictured below. What a craftsman he is. The bees will be ready for pick-up in late May. In the meantime I have more beehives to assemble and a bee yard to prepare for their arrival. That, I believe will keep me busy as a bee until they arrive.
I ordered my bees!! Wow, I’ve got so much to think about and do and prepare for my their arrival now! My mind has been buzzing, hatching new plans about this until they arrive. Now I get to wait. Until May. Wait and brainstorm until May when they arrive. Maybe wait and scheme conjures a better mental image. I’m excited!
We planted some apple trees last year close to where they’ll be situated. I know there is an abundance of other nectar sources around as well and I’d like to be able to identify them as I walk around so I’ve been doing lots of research on that. The beekeeping course I took at Algonquin College last year was very informative and made me feel ready to get my own hives this year. “Attracting Native Pollinators”, “The Hive and the Honey Bee”, “The Backyard Beekeeper”, “The Quest for the Perfect Hive” are a couple of the books I’ve been reading to educate myself on what I’m getting myself into. Since I work in a library, finding books on the topic is a cinch. In fact I’m up to my eyeballs in beekeeping literature. Finding the time to read everything is the hard part. Luckily I’ve got a couple of more months to get through the deluge of bee info before they arrive.
My mind is abuzz with questions about how the bizarrely mild weather so far this winter is going to affect the sap flow. If we don’t get a very deep freeze the season will likely be very short indeed. A recent trip to Montreal’s Dominion and Grimm warehouse has me enchanted with the amount of specialty equipment there is. I reigned in the urge to splurge on all the spiffy equipment and gadgets that appeared essential to have. If everything goes according to plan this year, I’ll add 20-30 more taps if I can. More on that later.
In other news, my excitement about beekeeping is mounting as I put together my order for equipment and hives. I’ve been in touch with a man I can order my bees from too. Oooohh I can’t wait until the spring!
My newest venture is beekeeping! Even though my adventure into the world of beekeeping will commence next year when the bees arrive in the mail, my preparations for their arrival have already begun. As with any other hobby or study of mine my first steps are to immerse myself in literature on the topic. I am up to my eyeballs in beekeeping books; I have scads of research on seasonal nectar sources. And the sketches have started. A doodle in a margin here, a quick drawing on a pad of paper there. Anytime my mind wanders I start doodling. Plus, I have a book on order that is considered by many to be the source for all beekeeping knowledge. “Hive and the Honeybee” by Lorenzo Langstroth himself, the man who revolutionized beekeeping with his hive design. I am going to start my bee-yard with one or two pre-assembled hives, then using those as models try to construct my own. I attained instructions on how to build Langstroth hives and I’ll start on construction of those this fall.
While meandering the woods my mind is also at work devising where to put my bee yard; access to water, nectar, and shelter from the wind are musts. Just the other day I came across a big bear paw print in the mud along a path. The fact that we have a bear living in our woods I must consider in my beekeeping plans as well. While the idea of Winnie the Pooh stealing honey from my hives is humorous, real bears do not exhibit Pooh’s docile manner. They will rip my hives apart to get at the honey and nectar inside. In order to protect against the destructiveness of bears and other vermin I’ll need to get vermin boards and an electric fence to surround my hives. I’m excited to start harvesting honey yet I think it’s a good thing that I am starting my preparations a year early. There certainly is a lot to learn and think about.