Starting a Bee Hive
Bees! Your weapons are useless against them! But their honey sure is sweet.
This summer we are doing our 2016 Grow Your Own Challenge. We are urban homesteading of sorts… The goal is to grow 80% or more of our produce for the year. But we are also tapping into the natural resources of our home in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. From gardening to gathering, we will be making everything from making and canning all our red sauces to jams and jellies. Today, we are setting up two bee hives.
This part of the project started by accident. I thought it was a nice idea to try to make our own honey. I happened to be skating at my local outdoor rink (that’s what we do in Minnesota in the winter) and met a new neighbor. As it turns out, he is a third generation bee keeper and offered to help us with a couple of bee colonies the this summer. So thank you so much newly-met neighbor!!!
After working out our arrangement, he calls me up a few months later and tells me he ordered bees and that he has two colonies for me. So … I guess I have bees now. In the very beginning of May, we made contact again and met to set up our bee hives. He was kind enough to sell me some used equipment of his and get us started. Thus begins our story of our first 10,000 bee’s.
The first thing we did was level a pallet on a southern facing hill.
A southern exposure with lots of sun is ideal. After leveling the pallet, we placed the first two hives next to each other in preparation for the bees later that night. These first two boxes, and the second story boxes above them will be for growing the bee colonies. The queen will lay eggs in these to grow each colony to 40-50,000 bees each. The goal is to get them to peak by the 4th of July then let the much bigger colony build up honey in any hive boxes we stack above the second. Last year my neighbor said he stacked the boxes six high!
Oh, and if you are wondering, this is what they look like inside:
It is important to know that each day, the bees leave in the morning and then settle in in the evening. We noticed that by about 6:30 all of the bees were back at home in their temporary hive. At 7PM we taped the hive’s holes and moved them to our boxes. If you didn’t already know, the smoke is only to calm the bees down. A few puffs over the top of the hive was all it took.
Here you can see what the hive looks like as we search for the queen. You can see in these images where the queen has been laying eggs for the drones and workers to build up the colony.
We periscoped the process and fielded questions from about 100 live viewers. You can re-watch the video here:
After we found the queen bees, we placed each rack inside a box and let the bees alone.
Each colony should produce between 50 and 100 pounds of honey for us and still have plenty of honey for them to make it through the winter. But we did this for more than just the honey. Bees are great pollinators and this will be a very fun hobby and way to teach our kids to #knowthings and #dostuff.
Make sure you follow along this summer and watch our colonies grow. We will show you how to collect the honey, care for your bees, and how to jar this sweet sugary nectar.