This summer I became interested in keeping bees on the farm, for a couple of reasons. Number one is the increase in productivity of the crops grown on the farm, but also to maybe get a little honey off the hives to complement the mix of eggs, fruits, and veggies grown on the farm.
Earlier this year I met a lady selling honey at the farmers market. Turns out that she and my oldest son worked together when he was in high school. Well, she sort of "took me under her wing", and invited me to the Cumberland County Beekeepers meeting. I went to the meetings all summer, met some really nice people, and started learning about bees. I didn't realize that bees were so complicated! And so well organized--and they don't even have ears It's all done with pheramones.
I've purchased three books "Bees for Dummies", Practical Beekeeping by Michael Bush, and The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum, who is editor of Bee Culture magazine. My beekeeping friend loaned me about 60 or more Bee Culture and American Bee Journal magazines to read. I've been reading, and reading, and Googling about bees and have just been really learning all I can about beekeeping and bees.
Well, beginner's luck would have it that the Tennessee Beekeepers Association Fall Convention was held in nearby Cookeville on Friday and Saturday (28 & 29) this year and I was able to attend both days. After learning about all the viruses, parasites, and hive bugs, the poor honeybees are struggling to stay alive. Add to that something that I didn't know and I bet a lot of you didn't know: In the spring there are about 1.6 million bee colonies that are moved to the almond plantations in California to pollinate the almond crop! After the bees get through there they will be moved to other "pollination destinations" throughout the growing season. These operations are also very stressful to the bees.
Another one of the classes at the conference was a hive inspection. I didn't know you were supposed to have a veil (I didn't even own one). A fellow Cumberland County beekeeper loaned me his hand-me-down bee suit:
That's me! We were all standing around our State Hive Inspector (he was teaching the class) and I could hardly get close enough to see in the hive so I stuck out my lower lip and mumbled "gee, I've never seen inside a hive"-- well, the waters parted! I got front row and a drone placed on my arm. We saw lots of hive beetles, varroa on some larvae, and a bee with "deformed wing syndrome". All-in-all the hive was healthy though--the inspector said he could always find things in hives.
Another class I attended was nectar and pollen plants for bees--I was so happy when I left that class because the bee-girls are going to be thrilled at what grows around here!
Other classes on feeding bees, getting them through the winter and first year beekeeping just confirmed a lot of the information I had been studying. I'm sure glad I did study before I went to the conference, because it would have gotten really confusing if I didn't have that little knowledge beforehand.
They had door prizes and I won a year subscription to The American Bee Journal! That was a nice prize. Before I left the conference I bought a jacket and veil. It makes the whole process feel more tangible--my first"bee thing" AND if someone does invite me to go with them to their hives, I'll be better prepared.
One of the winter-time projects around the farm is to build bee-hives for the spring arrivals. A couple of the presenters said to get at least two and not more than 5 hives so they can be compared to each other. I'll post the progress of the beehive construction . . . a friend has promised to saw some poplar on his sawmill for this project, so for now I wait on lumber.