If you follow me on Instagram (c’mon, you know you want to!), you may have noticed that we’re a little crazy about bees lately. Jim and I started attending a new bee club (The Camino Real Beekeepers Club) about three months ago where we met the most amazing people and had long drawn out conversations about all things bee related. A whole new (beautifully organized) world has been opened up for us and we are totally hooked.
This is the first entry in what will be a continuing series of our bee-autiful (Hah, you see what I did there? Are you sick of the bee jokes yet?) beekeeping journey. If you’re looking for expert advice, this is not the place! This series will be all about the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty side of beginning beekeeping.
You’ll celebrate with us (let’s all do the Dance of Joy!) and even more likely, cry when forces outside and within our control plot against us. We are brand new here and this blog series will help document our progress while allowing some of you to learn from our mistakes (which they’ll be plenty of!). So without further ado…
9 most basic things I’ve learned about beekeeping…
1. YOU NEED MORE (OR LESS!) SUPPLIES THAN YOU THOUGHT
I’m not trying to be vague but it really just depends on your comfort level with 30,000 upset (on a good day) to irate (on a not-so-good day) honeybees. Have you been stung before without much incidence? You might consider just a jacket, hood and gloves (that you’ll probably take off anyway but nice to have if the hive is aggressive!).
I’ve always had pretty nasty reactions to all bug bites so I wanted as much coverage as possible. When I go out with the bees, I’m seriously covered head to toe. It might change in the future, as I get more comfortable, but for now, this is how we’re doing it. Go with whatever you need to make you as calm and collected around the bees. Bees sense when there’s a disturbance in the force (had to add a Star Wars reference. For goodness sake, we named our hive Coruscant) so wear what you need to and definitely don’t have an argument with your spouse before visiting the hive!
2. FIND A LOCAL GROUP TO SHARE IN YOUR
OBSESSION NEW HOBBY
There is so much to learn about beekeeping, it’s nice if you can do it while chatting over a good cup of coffee. Books are great and the internet is a wealth of information but there’s nothing compared to hands on knowledge. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a club with different levels of expertise so that you can teach and learn all at the same time.
We were fortunate enough to join a group led by the most amazing couple from Michas Honey House. Aurelio and Veronica are just fascinating. They just know so much about beekeeping and have a wonderfully natural approach that backs their passion for helping the world wide bee crisis.
So that’s lesson number two, find some fun bee peeps!
3. BEE TIME = FAMILY TIME
My kids are still to young to really help out around the hive (Other than adding some pretty colors! What? I’m a craft blogger, what did you expect?!) but when they’re older, we’ll definitely buy them child size beekeeping gear. How great of an entrepreneurial lesson would it be to have the kids help with the hive, process the honey, figure in the cost of goods, and then be able to sell their goods in a “Lemonade” stand in front of our house?!
Until then, we talk with Jack (4 yrs) about the mutually beneficial relationship we have with our bees and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. Mostly I think he just likes to imagine a box filled with sugary goodness in our backyard! Max (2 yrs) is starting to be able to differentiate between bees and flies. That poor kid thought the horse next door was covered in bees!
4. IT’S OKAY TO BE FREAKED OUT
As with all learned behavior, comfort comes with time. Our bee club works with collecting wild swarms instead of ordering our colonies. The more I read about beekeeping, the more I love this method! The colonies that swarm are the healthiest and most well adapted bees you can find. And they’re free!
The only thing is…you actually have to go and get the swarm. Which means potentially angry bees flying everywhere while you work heavy equipment to remove the hive. Seasoned beekeepers probably wouldn’t even blink an eye but for me, it was a serious lesson in controlling your fears. I’ve got to tell you, though, I walked away amazed with the bees, my fellow club members, and most importantly, myself!
5. YOU WILL FALL MADLY IN LOVE WITH 30,000 FLYING INSECTS
And as with all love, you have to live with the fact that one day it could just all end. There are a number of reasons you might lose your bees (natural and man-made) and although I haven’t experienced it yet, that sounds absolutely devastating. From what I gather, it just comes with the territory. Heartbreaking as though it may be, you just continue on, collect another swarm, and fall madly in-love all over again!
So, that was my super novice beekeeping advice for you, come back in a week or so and I”ll have another update for you crazy “beek” (beekeeper) wannabees! Our hive is just starting so I’m trying to give them as much breathing room as possible. I’ll try and pop the lid this weekend and snap some pics with the real camera (aka: not my phone). Until then, hope you enjoy one last photo of my beautiful busy bees and the liquid gold they’re making!