Maybe you’ve read over on my About page how bees are significant to me and their symbolism- organization, hope etc. or maybe you’ve noticed the bee and beehive patterns around here? Well, all my interest in bees has finally led me to learning first hand about Beekeeping!
I’ve been waiting for this day all winter (maybe longer??), anticipating the phone call or email I would get saying OK, it’s time to go inspect the hives and open them up. Last Friday, since the weather was incredibly warm, it was the perfect day to do this. I headed to my friends house who has three hives in her back yard (in an Urban NW DC Neighborhood!).
The objective was for her and another new beekeeping friend to get into the hives, remove the food (white fondant-sugar that was supplied for winter feeding which can be seen above) clean them up a bit, inspect for pests, locate the Queen if possible and shut them back up.
After removing both the outer and inner hive covers we took some of the Hive Bodies off and removed frames to check the activity. All three of her hives were in pretty good shape with no dramatic issues. We did locate the Queen in one (I found her!) and we spotted enough eggs and brood (the larva and pupae) to know she was active in each.
Above you can see the brood as well as different colors of pollen and some nectar they’ve collected. This was a good sign since it’s early Spring (well it’ wasn’t even Spring yet then!) it tells us the bees are finding enough food sources on their own already. Isn’t that cool?
Here’s my view out of the beekeeping Veil.
This frame shows some honey already being capped off by the bees. We didn’t need to smoke either of the bees in the first two hives. They were active but remained calm.
Both the beekeeper I was learning from, Laura, and I worked without gloves. This last hive was quite a bit more active and we did end up using the smoker to calm them. Nevertheless both Laura and I got stung, on our fingers once we lifted off the Hive Bodies of the last hive. Why on earth you might ask didn’t I wear gloves? Honestly, I was really calm and since I was mainly observing I wanted to be able to take photos. Of course I also wanted to try a few things myself and did get to lift some of the frames out etc. and it was around this time when I got stung. It didn’t really hurt, just a pinch and I dashed off to put baking soda and water on it right away (and get the stinger out). I didn’t give it another thought until it really began to swell up about 24 hrs later…apparently this was a pretty normal range reaction to the first sting of the season and one week later my finger is almost back to normal (still a little itchy).
The frame above had a really beautiful formation with mountains and valleys of combs. We re-assembled the last hive and that was it! In all it took about 2 hours and would have taken less time if there wasn’t so much “Show and Tell” going on. I found it completely fascinating to see how the bee’s operate and the inner workings of the hive system. I left feeling without a doubt that I want to become a bee-keeper sometime in the near future. It will all depend on how involved I can be throughout the next few seasons. Perhaps by next year I will start with a hive of my own. Bees are VITAL to our very existence and I am so enamored of them. You may have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder and scientists worldwide are researching to find a solution for this mystery disease. Keeping bees would be my small way of supporting them since clearly they do so much to support us!
Do you or anyone you know keep bees? To see some amazing images of bees and other pollinators check out the National Geographic site.
If you are interested in becoming a bee keeper yourself there are organizations in every state and most offer classes annually.