What a gorgeous way to start the day; at 6:00am this morning the sky was on fire. Today is the day Irene and I get to bottle up our honey collections; it drained through the fine filter overnight and is now ready to be bottled up.
Whenever I tell people who know me that I now keep not one but two honey bee hives on the property, they think I have lost my mind. How does a guy who is afraid of being stung by anything (other then mosquitoes) and/or bitten by flying crawling insects get himself into keeping honey bees? Why am I afraid, you ask?
-Well, my brothers tried to chop down a birch tree with an active hornets’ nest in it when I was five. Luckily, my mother tossed me into the trailer with the hornets bouncing off the screen door. Mom and I escaped unscathed. Brothers had a few stings, if I recall.
-My brother and I sneaked into the movie Killer Bee when I was around 12. That was some scary crap, I tell you.
-I aggravated a hornet the size of my thumb when I was 14 and it slammed against the screen door for 10 minutes ’till I finally found the can of Raid. When I saw the stinger extend out in reflex as it died, I nearly died myself.
-At 15, while cutting grass at the old cottage, I ran over a hidden ant hill that was occupied some very unfriendly flying ants. They chewed up my calves pretty good.
So, for most of my adult life I have avoided flying, stinging things. I kept Raid in business as I always had stock on hand should something try to make a nest in my house, deck, or anywhere I might be.
Just after turning 40, I started down a path of facing my fears instead of running and hiding. FEAR :Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Recover. Most days I face everything. Some days, I still run for the hills. Yes I still keep Raid on hand should any flying insect try to invade my home space.
When we moved here, I mentioned to Irene that I wanted honey bees at some point. I got the “You’re nuts” look/nod and it was left at that.
The first week here, I met the largest black wasp I had ever seen. I’m telling you, this thing was as big as a hummingbird…well to me it was. When the second one showed up, pest control was called ’cause I sure as hell wasn’t sharing my home with wasps (I thought they were hornets at the time). Much to the amusement of the pest control company, it was a wasp and he laughingly told me they grow them big north of the city. Anyway, that fall the house was sprayed and protected against wasps and such getting in.
Much to my amazement, in May of 2017 I discovered honey bees trying to make a home in where one of the beams joined the house. Knowing that honey bees were special and in danger, the last thing I wanted to do was kill them. Off to the internet I went in search of a home remedy. Peppermint oil spray. Yah, that didn’t work at all. Time to get serious and again off to the internet for help.
This is where Dickey Bee Honey out of Cookstown came onto the scene. It was the May 24 long weekend and I was surprised they were open. Knowing this was not something that could be explained in an email or phone call, off I went to visit the bee house. When I arrived, it was quiet in the store and 1/2 of the owner duo Sandi was tending the store. Peter is the other 1/2 and I’ve never actually met him but he has answered some emails. The service they provide is exceptional.
After patiently listening to my problems ,Sandi and I came up with an idea of convincing the bees that maybe there was a better option by putting a hive close by and using some attractants. Keep in mind that Irene thinks I am off to learn how to dissuade the bees, not attract them. Unlike the chicken incident earlier in the year (another blog post another day); Irene was not consulted, I just decided that having bees would be cool and I would face the Irene music later. The Irene music was “You’re nuts but whatever makes you happy”.
So I came rolling home, loaded for bee with hive, stand, jacket, gloves, and some essential oils to attract bees. I immediately set up about 10′ away from the house where the bees were trying to make a home. It was at this point I noticed that since I got home there had been no activity. This was Saturday and all day Sunday. Then Monday there was not a single bee around house or hive. Well, I thought, “I’ll be damned” and had to make a choice of trying to return the hive or actually become a bee keeper. Guess we know which road I took.
Couple of emails back and forth with Sandi and Peter and the next stage was set. I set the hive out in the side yard which is a naturalized area (approx 1/4 acre) with attractants and crossed fingers that a wild swarm would stop by and like the new place. Three weeks later, didn’t we have wild swarm arrive and hang out for 24hrs!
Hindsight being 20/20 and knowing what I know now, I should have put my grown up pants on and brushed them into the hive and they may have stayed. Almost to the minute after 24hrs of hanging around, they left in a cloud; heading south. LOL Irene and I were admiring them when they did this and we nearly crapped ourselves as they went right overhead and we had no idea what was going on. We never heard from them again. I guess the condo fees were just too expensive for them.
My patience could only go for so long, so I sent my registration to OMAFRA (Ministry of Agriculture blah blah blah) to legally keep bees and then sent an email to Sandi to order what they call a NUC. (a queen, her entourage, some worker bees, and some honey to keep them fed ’till they get situated in their new home).
So when the NUC arrived, things got real very fast. I actually had to suit up and handle these tiny little stinging machines, feed them, and make them a happy and safe home. What the @#*&% was I thinking?! Anyway, face my fear I did. I installed the NUC, fed them, checked them and got them through the winter.
NOTE: What I have learned about bees since starting this, is truly amazing stuff and I could go on for awhile about it…oh wait — haven’t I already?? One thing though is honey bees, unlike wasps/hornets can only sting once (the stinger gets stuck in human skin). Therefore honey bees only sting to protect their home, so if one is careful and polite, most operations at the hive can be done with very little danger of being stung. Yeah… not this boy, I suit up every time! P.S. Up until last week when a wasp got stuck in my truck in Alabama, I had never been stung.
We wintered well and were set to go into the summer and make some honey. During the winter, the losses due to bad weather and other factors for a lot of bee keepers were huge. As if battling aggressive pesticides (that the gov’t finally banned) wasn’t enough, these losses hurt the honey bee population greatly.
I felt we had room for another hive and could do our part to help get the honey bees back on their feet. I had also learned how to build my own brood boxes over the winter, so the expense was minimized. Dickey Bee came through once again with helpful advice; now we have two hives going and have just completed our first honey harvest.
BOTTLING THE HARVEST FOR SAFE KEEPING:
Step one: Get all the supplies together and sterilize the jars.
Step two: Let the liquid gold out and capture.
Step three: Melt the wax down and clean up
Thanks for reading – See you next week
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