Planning for bees

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Today was exactly the kind of day I worried about when I made my resolution to spend an hour a day in the garden. Work ate most of my day, and we went out in the evening. The time I did have free I spent proofreading a transcript from an event I recorded back in October.

So now, I'm sitting down to finalize our plans for getting started in beekeeping - though if anyone has suggestions, let me know - these aren't that final.

It looks like we'll be ordering from Betterbee. They seem to have a good reputation, their catalog is helpful, and they're not too far away (north of Troy). I'm planning to drive over in April or May to pick up two packages of bees, so we'll have two hives.

We think we're going to go with the 8-frame equipment, which is smaller and lighter than the 10-frame. We'll start with the 8-frame kit, and maybe a triangle escape board, which sounds maybe a little too magical but apparently works.

I'm going to build some stands to get these off the ground, so that skunks will have less chance of disturbing them. Putting them in the front yard should reduce their appeal to other predators who tend to like more secluded settings. (Bears haven't visibly come this far north yet, but they've been seen a couple of miles south.)

We're not going to acquire honey-processing equipment at this point, hoping instead to work with other beekeepers. We'll see how that all works - it seems a bit early to worry about it!

(Bee-keeping seems a lot like chicken-keeping in at least one way: the animals don't cost nearly as much as the infrastructure for keeping them happy. Chickens were more extreme, with chicks costing very little and the coop costing more, but chickens also have much higher feed costs. They both have great side effects, though, with chickens creating compost as well as eggs and bees pollenating as well as creating honey.)

2 Comments

Craig said:

When I kept a hive about 25 years ago, we ordered bees through the mail. They're shipped in a little wood and screen crate. You better believe the post office let me know first thing in the morning that they'd arrived and I should get down there immediately a pick them up.

Had to give it up because I swelled up too much every time I got stung.

Mary Ann said:

Be sure to order the bees early. Last time I checked, the southern suppliers were sold out very early in the year. They're so expensive now, I'm glad I've been able to attract wild swarms when I've needed new bees in recent years. But, Craig's right. It's fun getting them by mail. Maybe the Freeville post office is less touchy about them than the Ithaca post office might be.

I use ten frame equipment with only nine frames in each super. This allows the bees to draw the honeycomb out a bit deeper making it easier to "uncap" each frame. (You have to slice the top off to allow the honey to drip out.) The two deep supers on the bottom are heavy. But I don't move them very often. The bees themselves take care of them. The shallow supers on top for the honey to be harvested, only weigh about 35 pounds when full.

You've probably noticed that extraction equipment is wildly expensive. We made an extractor from directions in Mother Earth News, good grief, thirty years ago. It's a large diameter air conditioning duct with a bottom and a spigot welded on. We constructed a totally Rube Goldberg structure inside to hold four shallow supers. It's powered by a variable speed drill which provides the centrifigul force to spin the gold honey droplets of the uncapped comb. You're welcome to borrow it anytime.

Extracting honey is the most fun ever! You watch the first jar fill up with your sparkling homegrown sweetness and carefully replace it with an empty one, getting a tiny drop of honey on your finger. You happily lick it off and savor it. Pretty soon there's another drop somewhere. After a while you think if you never see another drop of honey it will be too soon. Eventually the entire kitchen counter and most of the floor is covered with honey and it's days before you have it really clean again.

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This page contains a single entry by Simon St.Laurent published on January 11, 2008 9:44 PM.

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