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Bees, Please!

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Sometime over the winter, maybe even last fall, I decided I wanted to try my hand at beekeeping and have bees at the farm. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was getting into. My sweet husband did a lot of research and my Christmas was bee stuff – a complete hive, suit, and all the tools I’d need to have a hive, plus a complete hive from Hoover Hives.

This is me, trying on my suit after everyone left after Christmas dinner. I was pretty tickled with the idea.

At any rate, the next step was finding a local beekeeper association I could join. I’d been reading some (OK, a lot) of books about beekeeping and one recurring piece of advice was to find some local people that can answer questions and potentially mentor you.

So I joined the Potato Creek Beekeepers Association, and signed up for their January class – the Beekeeper’s Short Course. I dragged Sophie along for the ride, bribing her with Chick-Fil-A for the early 6 AM departure and off we went.

The class was amazing. There were other new-bees (ha ha… today, spell check!) and we all got a great reference book, a ton of catalogs and met a local source for bees and supplies.

The first thing I learned is I needed a NUC. A NUC (read about them here) is short for a Nucleus Colony of bees. They contain a mated queen, bees, drones, eggs, brood, and usually some honey for them to eat. The idea is to start the bees off with a complete family, although smaller than a full hive, rather than buying bees and a queen separately and trying to have them get together and get along.

A local supplier is best because then the bees are from somewhere close to where they will live (rather than Michigan or some other locale). I also learned that two hives are better than one since you can compare their progress in the same place and share resources (frames) if one hive needs it.

I took so many notes I used up an entire mechanical pencil lead and fifteen or so sheets of paper outside the book. I ran out of margin space and resorted to taking photos of the slides so I could get all the information down.

Small hive beetles, verroa mites, capped honey, uncapped honey, capped brood, supersedure cells, Langstroth, queens, drones.


It’s been almost 30 years since I graduated college. I forgot how to be in a class for eight hours. Sophie is playing on my Instagram bored to tears (although she retained a lot more than I thought looking back). But heck! I’m almost an expert. I’ve learned so much, I can do this!

So what do I do? I buy TWO NUC’s. (That little Jiminy Cricket voice in my head says – Oh Good Lord what am I doing?) And my brain thinks “they’re a small business too! Support small businesses! Buy two NUC’s! And so I wrote the check to the nice local beekeeper and stuffed my brain full of all the knowledge I could get about bees, thinking I’d have my NUC’s in a month or two then be ready to install mid-March and get rolling.

On the way back from the class, I got the call that my dad had asked me to come to the hospital. He had not been doing well, and he was asking for me. I got to tell him about the beekeeping and he chuckled a little bit. I’m sure he couldn’t imagine me running around in a silly white suit keeping bees. I had precious moments with him and he died a couple of weeks later, on Valentine’s Day.

And as all things seem to go, just the way they’re supposed to, the bees were not ready for pickup until early April. I used the time to build my Hoover Hives, which are pre-coated with wax so you don’t have to paint them, and trying to decide where in the world I’d put the hives at the farm. I also figured out how to use the time-lapse feature on the iPhone and take the video below of assembly. Stay tuned for all the action at the Apiary!

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