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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lesson #4: The Sooner You Accept That You Will Always Feel Sticky, The Better

On March 31, 2010 I became an official beekeeper. I wish I had a very dramatic story for you all but installing the bees into our hives was really the easiest part of this whole endeavor. After bringing home 20,000 bees in the back of my car (50 or so escaped and flew around freely as I drove the last 10 miles home) we installed the bees that evening. It was definitely a family affair. My intimidate family was there to watch, including my sister Sara and her husband Vic. Their new baby, Trevor stayed inside with Grandma. Sara had her very expensive, very nice camera with her and I have her to thank for the awesome pictures.

My beekeeping partner and I had been preparing for this day for weeks. We went to workshops, read books, watched videos online and had frequent and long conversations about how this day would play out. Based on everything that has happened so far, I expected that the bee installation would result in at least a trip to the emergency room. But this did not happen much to my relief!

We put on our bee suits, grabbed the packages, sprayed them down with sugar water so the bees couldn't fly away and just dumped them in. We hung the queen cage in the hive and closed them up. That was it. We kind of just stood there for a while shrugging and wondering if we missed anything but we didn't. That was it. I don't know why everyone isn't a beekeeper. It was really that simple. Well maybe people avoid beekeeping because of the thousands of stinging insects or maybe the fortune it costs to buy the materials. Okay, I don't know why a MORE people aren't beekeepers. If you get the chance, check out Sara's pictures of the installation on my facebook page.

Over the past two weeks Greg and I have been making sure they have sugar syrup in the feeders. They use sugar syrup in place of nectar until the flowers get going in the spring. we have to drive out to our little bee yard and check almost every day. So far my guesstimate is that we've gone through almost 4, 5lb bags of sugar keeping them fed which is a lot more than I've expected. I am going to have to consider buying those huge 50 lb bags that collect dust on the bottom of the grocery store shelves. Now I know why people buy them. I've also discovered that sugar syrup always finds its way out of the containers I put them in. Over the weekend, I had a 1/2 gallon jug of syrup mysteriously spill all over the back of my new Rogue. (I've had it less than a year and bought it with 4 miles on it.) I was pretty upset. How did that happen when I twisted the cap as tightly as I could to make sure it wouldn't leak? I also wonder how sugar syrup winds up all over my counters when I know I didn't spill any. I also manage to get sugar syrup on my clothes, on my hands and in my hair when I am making it and when I am refilling the feeders no matter how careful I am. I suppose I must chalk it up to one of the mysteries of beekeeping.

On Thuesday (and I am calling it Thuesday because my days are running together and I cant remember whether it was Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) we fired up one of the smokers and checked to see if the queens were released from their cages. They were! This means she is either crawling around the hive making baby bees or that the worker bees have rejected and eaten her. Not confusing at all, right? However, our bees have been busy collecting pollen on the warmer days we've had and so far by the looks of things everything is going well. They are so fun to watch! I could stand out there for hours just watching them fly in and out of the hives with the different colors of pollen they are finding. Just yesterday I considered getting a folding lounge chair and hang out with them for a while. I found out that if I stand close to the hives for too long they start to get irritated. I can tell that they are irritated when they start flying around my face. I think this is there way of cursing me out. I also realized if I'm not careful I am going to turn in to that crazy insect-loving, wacko lady that people don't let their children hang out with.

Today I spent $47.59 on organic ingredients for making lip balm and body butter with the copious amounts of beeswax and honey I hope to get later this summer. I am really excited about it! Next week (if the weather is warm and less windy) Greg and I will open up the hives and check to see if our queens are laying eggs. If not, we will have to scramble and get replacement queens right away. I'm pretty optimistic though. All signs currently point to happy, busy little bees!

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