Have you heard the new buzz at the Farm?

**Disclosure -Bee puns are numerous and I’m not ashamed** There is a new buzz at the farm recently! Honey bee hives!!! Honey bees are something I have been wanting to add to the farm for many years but we just haven’t made the plunge. Mostly because of how costly it is to get setup to keep bees.  I have been reading and learning as much as I can about bees, without actually having them for the last 3 years. I priced out hives a dozen times. No matter what I did, I could not get the start up costs down below $450. And that is going super cheap and leaving out a lot of what people would normally buy.  The most expensive part of all this were the actual bees themselves.  in our area, you can pay between $120-$150 for a package of bees and even more for a nucleus colony.  So what’s a girl yearning for some pollination to do? She just waited. Wait, what? you ask. It’s very unusual of me to be patient, I know. But we had so much else going on with the farm, that I allowed it to slip to the back of my priorities.  Until the day that my husband called me from his parents’ house to tell me that there was a swarm of bees in his mom’s peach tree!!!

Oh my goodness, knock me over with a bee brush.  I was so excited….play it cool, bee chill.  Even if you make it up there before they fly off, what are you going to put them in?  My brain is going 17,500 miles per hour as I brainstorm what to do.  My very good friend and fellow farm mom, Alicia, popped into my brain *pop*.  She kept bees, she had a bee suit, she had equipment.  In my head it felt like a big ask to have her drop everything and meet me at my in-laws with all her bee equipment. Maybe she would want to catch them for herself after all, she was the one with all the investment. But when I called her….she was totally game for my adventure and willing to help me get started. (This is when I started to realize that bee people are actually the best)

Dan and his Dad got things ready for us to catch the swarm while we were both still on our way to their house.

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Here’s Alicia, catching the swarm. This is her first time catching a swarm by the way, doesn’t she look like she knows what she is doing? I think so. She did an amazing job of catching all those bees…And she even brought me a small hive to put them in!!!

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When we got home with our bees it was pretty late and we were starting to loose our light, so I don’t have a ton of pictures.  Alicia loaned me her husbands very large bee suit, so I look a little silly in this next one, but more important I want to show you what the hive started out with, it wasn’t the huge set up that I was told I needed to start keeping bees.  I had a bottom board ($20), a medium hive body with 10 frames and foundation ($40-$50), and a feeder. Now there are a couple ways to go for a feeder. You can spend less ($5-$10) on an entrance feeder and risk some robbing of your hive, or you can spend a little more ($20) on a top feeder.  Alicia brought us all of those items so I didn’t need to immediately go out and buy any of them, but even if I had, I would have spent less than $100.

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Notice there is no notched inner cover, no fancy telescoping metal topped outer cover.  This is a genuine redneck hive ya’ll, with no $ $$ for frills like fancy lids.  Now Alicia eventually wanted her stuff back, who wouldn’t, that stuff is expensive! So the next week  I went to town and bought new items to replace her borrowed ones, and I sprung for a migratory lid ($14)

 

Suits are usually quite expensive and can start around $70 ranging all the way up into the $160 range.  I found this suit on eBay for $30.  Shop around, you do NOT have to pay full price for stuff ya’ll. I didn’t buy gloves because, well that was more money, and they honestly make it harder to work in the hive. I was worried about stinging until I realized that the bees have better things to do than sting me, and as long as they don’t sting me in the face or body, I can handle a few stings to the hands.  I picked up a few bee tools at a yard sale a few years ago, so I already had a smoker, hive tool, and frame grabber.  Then I got down to the business of tending my new bees!!

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After two weeks of feeding them, and watching them carefully, I determined that they had no queen 😦 whether she died during hive installation, or she was never in the swarm, who knows, but they were hopelessly queenless at this point. (For those of you that haven’t spent years learning about these fascinating insects, that means they have no queen, and no way to make a queen, ie. eggs laid by a previous queen with which they could feed what would have been a worker bee royal jelly and make that bee become a queen)

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I reached out to our local beekeeping club to see if anyone was selling queens, and some one WAS!!!!  So I bought a local queen for $20 and saved the hive from certain disaster and decline.  HORAAY! Look at her, she’s so BEEautiful (just FYI, the bees all around her are called her retinue, maybe they find her BEEguiling)

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So let’s review what THE MAN tells you what you need v.s. what you ACTUALLY need:

  • THE MAN
    • 5 hive bodies with frames and foundation
    • bottom board
    • queen excluder
    • inner cover
    • outer cover
    • top feeder
    • expensive bee suit
    • bee gloves
    • smoker
    • fancy hive tool
    • frame holder
    • bee brush
    • BEES!!!

TOTAL – at least $450 (probably more)

  • ACTUALLY
    • 1-2 hive bodies to start (add more as needed/budget allows) with frames and foundation
    • bottom board (get the screened ones – they cost the same as the solid ones and they are better for monitoring mites and such)
    • rigged up plywood top or migratory cover
    • DIY top feeder
    • cheap eBay suit
    • work/garden gloves that you already have for free
    • smoker
    • small pry bar from the toolbox in your garage (claim innocence if someone else looks for it and can’t find it because now there are no pry bars, only hive tools)
    • turkey feather or other soft bristle brush that you already own for free
    • Swarm bees for free

TOTAL – $150 (still a lot, but tons better than THE MAN above)

 

 

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