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.
OMG MY HEAD IS GOING TO EXPLODE.
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!