Bee-lieve it or not:
You can thank a bee for every 1 out of 3 bites you take while eating food.
A single colony of bees will pollinate up to 300 million flowers, per day!
90% of the world’s nutrition is comprised of food crops which wouldn’t grow without pollination from bees.
Fun facts, but the not so fun truth behind it is the decline in bee populations world wide. It seems as of late we are seeing more awareness on the subject, and we think that’s great here on the farm . This summer Dan and I decided we would do our part to help the cause, and so we became first time beekeepers!
Beekeeping has been something we have been talking about since the early days of starting out our little homestead. We always knew it was something we would get into one day, and it just so happened to all come together this Spring for us. We are so excited to learn and grow as we raise our two hives of bees this summer.
Being as we are the Burches, we obviously couldn’t do things the conventional way, and so instead of your common hive boxes, we purchased Flow Hives. If you haven’t heard of the Flow Hive, there are lots of videos and demonstrations, along with information online! One of our hives was a wedding gift from friends last Fall, they really do know us well.
First order of business was assembling the hives, picking out our protective paint colours, learning as much information as possible and then searching for our new tenants. Working at the Farm Store in town had given me an in with one of our local bee farmers. He and his family have been raising bees for almost fourteen years now. We ordered two packages of bees along with the order he places to fill his hives (they fill around 100 hives). They arrived the first week of May, and Dan drover over to the farm to pick them up.
While there, he spent the day with Wayne (said bee farmer), learning the tips and tricks for getting yours bees out of their packages and into their hives, helping him do around 20 of his own hives. It was such a great learning experience and he came home with so much knowledge to share with me. When I got home from work we suited up in our bees suits (coveralls, a bee hat with protective netting and gloves that reach up to your elbows), and released our bees! I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck, as I had been slightly terrified of flying, stinging insects up to this point having never been stung. But I kept reminding myself over and over in my head “Respect the bee and the bee will respect you!”. My mantra must have worked, because I was more calm than I would have ever thought possible, and for 8500 bees being released for the first time in over a week out of their packaging, so were the bees.
Once the bees have been gently dumped from their travel tubes into the brood box of the hive, we gently replaced the frames we removed to accommodate them. The lid was placed quickly on top while we got ready to deal with the Queen. It is most important to ensure you have a healthy, happy queen bee as she is what the hive revolves around. The queen arrives in her own special cage within the travel tube.
First steps for the bees are to comb out the frames within the brood box so that the queen can get to work laying her offspring. Wayne was kind enough to provide us with a pre-combed frame which we placed inside the hive to give our little bees a bit of a head start. Because pollen and nectar sources are still scarce at the beginning of May, we placed a feeder tray in each of the hives, filled with a solution of sugar and water. This allows the bees food and hydration to begin constructing their comb.
We left the bees to their bidding for the next week, in the mean time we signed up and attended a local bee course in the city. What a great day! There was so much we already knew from our farmer friend, but we were able to take lots away from our class too.
We had decided already that we were not going to be raising our bees in a holistic manner, and that was our choice. Some may agree or disagree, but we felt it was what would work for us. So that meant that the first week after arriving, it was time to treat our hives. The first round of treatments are little strips of medication placed inside the hive in twos. The bees rub against the strips and their job is to kill the teeny tiny mites living on the bees. Varroa Mites have the ability to wipe out a hive if not kept under control. They feed off the fat of the bees, and lay their eggs within the brood cells. They are big spreaders of disease and sickness amongst bees. The strips will remain in the hive for up to 41 days so that they can be there for two complete brood cycles of bees.
Several weeks later the next treatment began, this one for the prevention of American Foul Brood. Once you have Foul Brood in your hive, the only way to get rid of it is to burn everything. It can be a devastating disease to bee colonies. Bee larvae will not develop and a pungent smell of decay is present in the hive, as well as the comb turning a shade of gray. Medication is mixed with icing sugar and placed inside the hive for the bees to consume. You treat once a week for up to five weeks.
Doing these treatments give us an opportunity to peek inside of the hives and make sure everything is developing as it should. On our last check, you could clearly see the areas of white comb capped honey storages, the yellow capped comb of brood and even the cells with the larvae inside! The hives are fragrant f pollen and honey and it would appear as though we are on the right track.
We are so excited for this journey into beekeeping, and the rewards that will come with it. We have already seen our little orchard alive with bees as they fly from apple to pear to cherry tree pollinating, stopping along the way at our Saskatoon and Haskap berry bushes. We look forward to seeing how our garden will thrive this season with an increase in pollinators. And of course we are excited for the fruits of our little bees labour, honey!
Follow along with us this summer as we start out on our journey of becoming the beekeeping Burches!