Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bees and the Quest for Honey

The last few years I have had an interest in bees and beekeeping.  However, until this past summer I lived in Phoenix, AZ.  That means two things when it comes to bees: 1 - Most of the orange groves are gone and they are replaced with houses (remember the housing boom of 2004-2006?); and 2 - Africanized bees. I figured that this was one hobby that would be best learned from an actual person, not just reading about it on the internet and then going to do it.  There weren't many recreational beekeepers left in Phoenix.  I had a lead on an uncle of a friend, but he hadn't been active in years.

My move to Goochland County in Virginia last summer was just what was needed to get the bee buzz going again.  In Powhatan, VA, the county just south of Goochland, the extension office was having a bee class for beginners.  Seemed like no time better than the present, so I signed up.  It was interesting and fascinating and got me even more excited about this hobby.   This spring the group formed the Huguenot Bee Club with members from brand new (of which I am one) to very experienced.

After going to meetings once a month since last September, the time has come to actually start working the bees.  We placed orders this past fall for nucs this spring.  They are similar to a regular hive, but are only four frames.  They will have a queen, nurse bees and brood on these frames.  These frames will be inserted into my hive bodies once I receive them.  The bees will then be fed a sugar water mixture to help them build out the comb on the frames.

But before I could do that, I needed the equipment.  I went online and ordered every catalog I could find, from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm to Dadant to Mann Lake Ltd. After ordering some from all of them along with a local Brushy Mountain distributor, I had all the parts, but I still needed to assemble.

My dad helped me assemble the hive bodies and the good wife painted them the usual white.  Since the good wife is the main user of honey in our house, it seemed appropriate that she participate in some form or fashion in this hobby.  The last step is to make up the frames.

All the equipment ended up in the basement, since the chicks and guineas are finally outside in their coops, so that seemed like the best place to start.  I got the air compressor along with the nail gun and setup a small assembly shop in the basement.

Unassembled frames on the table and empty hive bodies on the floor.

I assembled a few frames to get a feel for it and called Doug from Buffalo Bee Farm, one of the other Huguenot Bee Club members, for advice about the wax foundation installation.  The one thing I have found, is that beekeepers in general are really friendly and anxious to share their knowledge with anyone else.

Extra hive bodies on the left, and unassembled frames on the table.

After less than an hour of work, I had 23 frames built and installed into two hive bodies.  That was my goal for the evening.  I am going to be out of town for a couple weeks right before the nucs are to arrive, so I wanted to make sure I would be ready to go when I got back.  Looking at the filled hive bodies gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment.  It also let me know that there is no turning back now!

My first two hive bodies with frames.  

Although I don't need ten frames per hive since each nuc will come with four frames, they just looked so good all filled up.  It will still be a year or two until I will get any honey for myself, but the good wife and I are excited.  We are both looking forward to our first spoon of honey from our own hives.  And just in case any friends and family are wondering, you can guess what you will be getting for Christmas 2012 if everything goes as planned!

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