Beekeeping – Lessons From My First Year Pt.2
Posted On August 7, 2018
Lessons From My First Year Part 2
As promised, lessons from my first year beekeeping part 2. These next couple things are a little less serious, but still posed a challenge in the apiary. In any new hobby, there’s always a huge learning curb. It would appear beekeeping is no different.
From cows in the apiary, to a swarm of bees on the porch, you never know what you may be faced with. On the ranch, it seems like a never-ending cycle of craziness. To be honest, we’ve grown to love it…
Honey Bees and Cows
I know, what do these two have to do with each other right? A little back story on how this happened might help paint the picture. A couple years ago we decided to introduce honeybees to our small acreage ranch. We did what anyone would do, we walked the property, found the most level and open area, and set up shop.
The hives were faced southeast at a field of blossoming flowers. Seemed perfect, except for one thing. My desire to expand didn’t take long to kick in, we eventually order 2 more hives and watched our apiary grow.
Turns out, that field we put our bees in, was smack dab in the middle of our future cow pasture. Something to consider when placing your bees in a specific location, is that you can’t just move them to another spot. The general rule of thumb when moving your hive is either 3 ft at a time, or over 3 miles.
With that in mind, we decided to build a barbed wire fence around them to keep them safe from our soon to be very curious Texas Longhorns. Turns out, the smell of honey is more tempting than I had realized.
One afternoon I came out to find one of our heifers standing inside the apiary with a big scratch on her face. Apparently, a few strands of barbed wire weren’t enough to keep this girl from investigating the delicious smell of honey. After giving her a stiff talking to and checking her for injury, we set her free back into the pasture. Dodged a bullet on that one!
As I previously stated in the last article, we didn’t have the best winter last year. When we finally lost our last hive, we were feeling pretty defeated. After our last hive inspection, we decided it was time to move the apiary to a new location for the upcoming year. We stripped the barbed wire from the poles and set out to clean up the field a bit, what we forgot though, was a couple of the hive bodies loaded with untapped honey. Guess who didn’t forget about the honey? That’s right, our curious Longhorns.
They rummaged through our apiary like kids in a candy shop, destroying anything in their path. Our frames were smashed, hive bodies tossed around, inner covers cracked in half, just a mess. I mean, why not add to blow of losing our hives, lets trash some equipment too.
Well there you have it, cows and honey bees do not mix….
Honey on the Porch
This one’s going to seem like common sense, at least when you read it. In the late summer we noticed an abundance of honey starting to build up in our thriving hives, so we decided to take a couple frames for ourselves.
Of course, I watched plenty of videos and read a plethora of articles on how to extract honey from the frames. In everything I watched, no one mentioned how quickly honey bees will track down the loaded frame you just stole from their hive! Being naïve, I suited up, grabbed my bee brush, and fired up my smoker. I couldn’t have been more excited to pull those frames from the hive in preparation for our first extraction.
Our apiary is a good 100 yards from our house, with a mess of trees separating us. So, I obviously thought I could take the frames, walk them up to the house and the bees would let me do so without a fight. Nope, not the case at all. I carried up the frames and set them on the back of my old farm truck, thinking I would give the bees a couple minutes to figure out they were no longer in the hive and the last couple would fly home.
So, I went in the house and started setting up my extraction equipment. A couple minutes later I came back out to find a huge swarm of bees in the driveway! Well I inadvertently started a feeding frenzy in my driveway as every bee seemed to be robbing the honey from the frames to take back to their hives.
I did the only thing I could think of, grabbed one frame at a time and ran around in big circles brushing off the bees until I could pass off the honey frames to my wife standing on the porch. I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked, but we got our honey!
When you bring your honey up from the hives, bring it straight inside. The same goes for taking your wax cappings out for cleaning. Make sure you set them far enough away from the house as it will get a little hectic.
If you’ve never seen one, your likely to once you start keeping bees. They are massive! I had never seen them prior to keeping bees. They pose a real threat to your hives, as they are carnivorous and feed mainly on large insects.
They are known to tackle honeybees in mid flight near their hives, taking them down to the ground and consuming them. Unfortunately, the first time I saw one of these near my hive I watched it swoop onto the landing strip of the hive bottom, grab a honeybee, and fly away with her. It was at that point that I realized they were more than just a nuisance bouncing off my outdoor lights at night.
They were actively hunting our honeybees, and if a hive isn’t strong enough to fight them off, they will enter the hives and wreak havoc. With that being said, we are always on the lookout for them now. When we spot them, we exterminate them…
More to Come
Well that covers a few more of the obstacles we’ve encountered thus far. It’s hard to believe it’s only our second year, yet we’ve learned so much. Keeping your bees alive requires more than just routine checkups. You never know what you may encounter in the bee yard. One day it might be a lost and curious cow, the next a hornet the size of a small bird.
If you’d like to share a story with us feel free to post it below. As always, questions are welcome as well. Thanks for checking in with us, we will share more of our encounters soon.