Some of you know that we, my husband Charlie and I, are now keeping beehives. Charlie started this venture in 2019 by taking the class on beekeeping in our area. I thought it would be just his hobby but I have been enjoying learning about the bees and helping take care of them.
Toward the end of his class hives were ordered.
The common wisdom was to have at least two hives, as you can compare and evaluate each alone and against the other. If one is doing poorly but the other is fine, it is hive specific. So we got two. Placement was another decision to be made. We didn't want them near the front door or driveway because of foot traffic. Areas in the yard where our irrigation hits are also not a good idea. Rainfall is okay but sideways watering isn't the best. Our property includes a septic drainage field of a half acre, across the street from our one acre property. No one walks on the septic field and we only cut it once or twice a year, so the bees would be unbothered by mowing.
Hives should be elevated off the ground and level. Each hive is decorated a little differently so the bees know which is their home. In the photo above you see a level, cinderblocks and the hives. You can also see our house in the distance. The opening for the hives should face south. Good air circulation and sunshine are important for a healthy hive. There's a lot more to beekeeping than just getting honey!
The new bees have arrived - picked them up beginning of April. Timing for setting up a new hive is important- you need to know when the nectar flows start in your area and what is in bloom. Much of my gardening choices are for pollinators and hummingbirds. Well, bees need to have blooms that aren't long and tubular. Their flower shape is shallower or disc shaped. Gosh, I guess that means I need to get more plants!! I do want to do my part in helping our bees. The queen, brood and nurse bees were purchased from one of the bee club folks. They arrive in a special box called a Nuc box, short for nucleus, used to hive a small colony of bees. In the photo below you see the Nuc boxes on top of the hives that will soon be home.
You can also see the foliage of some of the daffodils I planted a few years ago. There is plenty in the drain field to bloom throughout the season. There are some Rudbeckia planted by the birds, lots and lots of Asters of various species and plenty of Goldenrod to bloom through the fall. We are surrounded on three sides by forest and back up to the lake for fresh water drinking. The bees should be very happy.
After allowing for the bees to settle in, we checked on them every so often. More eggs were laid, new bees were born.
You see an active frame, full of bees above. Photo below is capped brood and the white open cells are bee larva stage before getting capped- it goes from egg to larva to pupa to bee. A healthy growing hive.
When it comes to harvesting honey you don't want to take a frame of honey unless it is at least 80% capped. That which is not capped is not the correct water percentage to honey. Bees process the nectar from high water percentage down to under 18.6% water, then it is capped.
One piece of the equipment that we use is called a queen excluder. The queen is larger than the worker bees and therefore cannot move through the excluder. The workers store the honey in honey supers- a box above the brood chamber. The queen is busy in the brood chamber laying eggs while the workers store most the nectar in the honey supers.
So here the hives sit, in our open drain field. Note the heavy brick on the top of each hive. We have raccoons, Opossum and other wildlife that we want to keep from opening our hives. If we were in an area with bear activity we would have more safe guards in place.
Stay tuned for more updates about our venture into beekeeping. I will direct all questions to the resident beekeeping class graduate, I am but an assistant with a camera.
©Copyright 2021 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.