The Bee Diaries – April 2016

The gentle, warm summer breeze touched our faces as we stood watching the bees. The bees were just doing their thing: flying in and out of the hive, gathering pollen.  Suddenly we noticed a large black cloud forming in the southwest. Within minutes of us spying that dark cloud the bees started flying back to the hives in droves.

We watched with fascination as hundreds of bees whizzed past us on their way back to the hives. Within 10 minutes the sky had opened up and it was pouring rain; the bees all safely ensconced in their homes.

We were just babysitting them. Our friend Don Mark had asked us if he could place two hives on our property near Shallow Bay. Up for a new adventure we said, “Of course.”

Late one evening Don and his daughters brought them over, set up the hives and placed an electric fence around the area where the hives were. Just to be on the safe side, he said. Not that we had a large issue with bears in the area, but better to be safe than sorry.

That was last summer 2015.  We fell in love. The bees seemed such a calming presence in the yard. We started watching our shrubs and flowers more closely for our bees working. We learned a few things along the way.

Bee keepers should not wear shorts.

The bees are gathering pollen and producing honey, not planning an attack on humans.

If a bee does seem agitated with you, just walk into the forest. The bees have a hard time navigating through the trees.

My husband, Roger, spent the winter building bee boxes. A fantastic finishing carpenter he spent many hours crafting beautiful boxes from scrap lumber.

In the end he purchased few supplies to complete the building: tin for the telescoping covers or roofs, ¼ inch builder’s cloth (wire mesh), staples, nails and wood adhesive. Each hive is made up of several pieces: basic inner cover, telescoping outers, screened inner covers, escape boards, slatted racks, to name a few pieces.

Our basement workroom looked like an assembly plant while Roger cut first then assembled.

While some of the pieces Roger built are not used by all beekeepers, he figured he might as well build everything. I told him our bees will think they live in the Taj Mahal!

Roger has three nucs coming from a company in Ontario called Debbee’s Bees, run by fifth generation beekeeper named Debbie Hutchings. A nuc or nucleus colony is a small honey bee colony created from a larger colony. The nuc hive centred on a queen is a smaller version of a normal bee hive. A nuc may already have a queen. If it doesn’t, it will have eggs from which workers will create a new queen.

He is also talking to a chap in British Columbia who may have nucs ready within the next few weeks. Hutching’s bee production is about a month behind schedule with the cold spring Ontario is experiencing.

A fascinating novel that gave us a sense of life from the eyes of the worker bee, the drone and the queen is called the The Bees by English author Laline Paull.

Here is the book jacket quote:

“Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion.”

The book is as beautiful as our bees in the yard last summer – busy, buzzing, building honeycomb.

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