Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beekeeping in the ‘burbs

I am happy, happy, happy today.  It’s a beautiful, unseasonably warm day in the beginning of March.  I just checked our beehive and they made it through the winter!  I found the queen, she’s laying, and some of the workers even had pollen behind their “knees.”  AllDSC_0071 seems to be going well in the hive.  So the question is, to split or not to split?  “Splitting”  a hive means you take some frames from one hive and try to start a new hive with them.  I’m relatively new to beekeeping (this was our hive’s third winter), but the old-timers seem to say that it’s easier to manage two hives, rather than one.  We’ll need to make a decision in the next couple of weeks, so over that time I’ll be spending some time staring blankly through the dining room window at the hive in our backyard, hoping for a lightning bolt or some other sort of sign about what to do.

Our family got into beekeeping a few years ago after attending a 4H fair.  My son, Sammy, announced that he really, really wanted to try beekeeping.  Now, Sammy is a man of many passions.  He loves hockey; he loves legos.  He attends bonsai workshops and loves planting and caring for the little trees.  He’s an avid reader, plays soccer, raises leopard geckos, and plays the bass.  Basically, Sammy has a great deal of “Joie de Vivre.”  So when he told me about the beekeeping, I figured this might be a passing fad.  I told Sammy that he could have a beehive, but he’d have to attend 4H meetings for one year before I would take the adult class and buy everything for the hive.

I learned the ol’ “4H for one year” trick from my mother.  When I was a little girl, I really, really wanted a rabbit.  My mom said fine, I could have a rabbit, but I had to attend 4H in order to get the rabbit.  I was so excited at my first 4H meeting!  Sitting there in the public library meeting room, we heard all about rabbits and rabbit care.  The adult leader handed out a schedule of the year’s activities:  build the hutch, get the rabbit, care for the rabbit, learn about rabbit diseases, show rabbit at the 4H fair, SLAUGHTER THE RABBIT!  That was my first and last 4H meeting, and I never did get my rabbit. 

Well, 4H has changed a lot in the past 40 years.  It’s a lot of fun and the kids really learn about their animals.  My kids are in the local 4H bee club and the dog training club.  The adult leaders generously give of their time and the kids really enjoy themselves.  Needless to say, although it may be part of some of the more agricultural clubs, we haven’t had to slaughter anything.

So, the ol’ “4H for one year” trick backfired, and I now have a beehive in my backyard.  I have a love/hate relationship with “the girls.”  On early spring days like today, it lifts my spirits to see them break cluster and fly.  In the middle of summer when they’re hungry and I have to feed them every other day (not enough nectar sources here in the ‘burbs), we both have slightly bad attitudes – they want to sting me and I might smoke them a little too vigorously.  When we’re harvesting honey, I’m thankful for their hard work.  Over the summer, I love watching the kids show the honey and candles at the 4H fair.  When we’re making candles at Christmas, I’m glad “the girls” are snug in the hive, riding out another winter.

IMG_0380Our bees made it through the winter!  Now starts another spring and summer bee adventure, and that’s why I’m so happy.

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