On Saturday I took a beekeeping class at Hunt Hill Nature Center. I've been reading up on beekeeping for months (I highly recommend Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees), so when I saw this advertised I jumped at the chance. It was a very good class - the teachers were very friendly, and they had both been keeping bees for over a decade, so they knew what they were talking about! They were also very knowledgable about "natural" beekeeping - limiting chemical controls, knowing what plants blossomed when and what flavor of honey they produce, etc. They also answered many of the questions I'd wondered about from my reading. Definitely well worth it!
But I was despairing because I thought I'd waited too long to order bees - most suppliers run out before March. I didn't really want to order bees that early, because, although they don't send them until April, you still end up feeding them sugar syrup (which I DON'T want to do - the sugar can end up in the honey you harvest, which kind of defeats the purpose I think!) because there aren't many flowers blooming around here yet. They also usually ship their bees in the mail (which can stress them) from warmer places like Texas or California. I'd prefer bees from somewhere colder, so they would be more used to my climate.
But, once again, The Instigator came to my rescue! The day after I took the class, my sister-in-law sent me a link to "her" honey producer in Minnesota's Craigslist ad, stating that he would be dividing his hives in May and would have some for sale at that time. *(Insert whoops of joy here!)*
So, now I have the know-how, and I've ordered my bees - guess it's time to order my hive and supplies!
I almost forgot to mention - in preparation for getting my bees next month, (and to keep the males of the household bee-friendly) I decided to make a "bee yard". Using some old scrap lumber from the deck we'd torn off last fall, I built a 6'x12' frame, lined it with old plastic chicken feed bags (I have plenty of those!) and then filled it up with river rock (which we're slowly but surely removing from the front garden bed). The plan is to put a patio paver or two (which we also have in abundance from another take-down project) on top of the rocks, and put the hive up on that. I made this for three reasons:
1) So my poor husband and/or son could mow near the hives without getting stung (hopefully).
2) To make things easier on the bees. I read somewhere that bees prefer not to have to fly through tall weeds to get "home".
3) Plus, of course, not having tall weeds around the hive should also cut down on the ticks I'll pick up when I go to harvest honey.
(and of course I should mention the "I'm so excited I want to DO something but my bees won't be here for another month" factor!)