When I heard my friend was becoming a beekeeper I quickly volunteered my 2.5 acre mini farm as a spot for the bees. We had just moved there a year ago – and started building a garden of fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables. I was blessed when he said OK! I knew practically nothing about bees- so needed someone who was educated/experienced. Here is the beginning of our bee adventure. . .
Preparation on my end wasn’t much. I checked with the town and didn’t need any extra permits or permission from them. I talked to my neighbors and they were thrilled. None lived closer than 500 ft. away – but I wanted everyone on board. Bees are attracted to water and pools – but the closest pool was over ½ a mile away- so not an issue. As a precaution – I asked my doctor for an epi-pen for an emergency sting (did not know if I was allergic). She quickly sent a script to the pharmacy (Note- have them order generic to keep costs way down). I had Benadryl in my medicine cabinet just in case too. I ordered a beekeeper hat for $10 online – just to have as a precaution.
A little bit about our wonderful “bee guy”. . . We were all new at this but he was getting trained at a local nursery that specialized in beekeeping. When I asked him “Why bees?” . . . his answer was – “because bees are freaking awesome.” Enough said – he was our guy – and a wealth of information too!
In the spring the new bee boxes arrived filled with Italian honey bees. First they lived in the traveling box to get acclimated with the land – then a day later they were transported to the new beautiful boxes he created from wood. I have to tell you – it was intimidating having 20,000 new bees on the land. Watching someone walked around in a suit that looks like they are visiting the moon is awesome. I just stood back and watched him carefully check to see that everything was just right. The buzzing sound of all of them was much louder than ever imaged.
Every day I would go out and visit and see if anything was happening. One box was definitely more Zen than the other.
Both bee boxes seemed pretty docile for the most part– except for the days the “bee guy” came to visit to check what was going on inside. He would get them riled up for a few hours. I would work my gardening schedule around his visits to stay inside for those hours.
Mowing the lawn was daunting near the hive. No one would mow near it but me. I learned that you should mow the closest pass first. I dressed in gloves, hooded sweatshirt, long pants, boots, sunglasses and put on my radio headset over my ears. Looking at me – I looked like the “unibomber” – but it worked. I mowed pass them once – and you could see that they got agitated. That is the fastest my garden tractor has ever traveled. I finished quickly and high tailed it out of there. Going behind the boxes didn’t bother them – just in front. Task complete for at least another week. I have learned to keep the lawn a little longer for them to feed off the flowers that pop up. That works for me!
Then this happened . . . one day I was walking out to the garden and a bee starting buzzing near my ear. As a quick reaction – I swatted at it. In my defense – I have had several surgeries on my ears and am so sensitive. I must have hit the bee and it retaliated by stinging me right under my eye. I didn’t feel any immediate swelling – just a little pain – PHEW. I went in the house and texted my “bee guy” and he said take some Benadryl and ice it. Well I did – and no reaction. I was lucky it didn’t even swell up. Poor bee probably died – and I feel bad about that. The only repercussions were from the Benadryl. It knocked me out for hours.
Things I learned the first month with the bees:
• Bees fly up 6 ft. then out 30 ft. to visit plants.
• I watched other bees carry the dead bees out of the box the very first night. They are very tidy.
• Don’t take any honey the first year to make sure they have enough to last the winter. We live in Western New York on Lake Erie. Not the easiest winters.
• If a bee is flying around you – don’t swat at – just whistle. It calms you and they move on their merry way. If you are ultra-sensitive like I was just after being stung – wear sunglasses and ear covering outside.
• I researched articles on “Telling the Bees.” It is an age old practice of talking and telling the bees about births, deaths, and other important happenings in the family. Society used to honor the bees so much more than we do today. We need to get back to that. They are so vital!
• Leave out water for the bees. It can be a pan or bucket. If you have a pond or lake nearby – that works.
• Bees benefit the gardens and fields in a 2 mile radius sometimes more.
If bees (the queen specifically) are not happy where they are – they swarm. It happens. You can do everything right on your end – but sometimes one day – they just leave.
Tina T. Ames is an artist, homesteading and blogger and simple living instructor in Western New York State. Connect with her at Simply Abundant Living and on Etsy. Read all of Tina’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.
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