Two Hives of Busy Bees






























We recently rearranged our bedroom so that our bed is in front of a window.  This morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was look out the window to see our two beehives, sitting in a spot that has been empty since last November when the bees in our one remaining hive died.  When they died, we started planning right away for more bees.  Last year was our first year keeping bees and it was instant love for Jonny and me.  Next spring, we said, we’d try four hives, rather than two.  But then, we found a house we loved and hoped to buy.  We didn’t want to move bees, so we agreed, no bees this year.  On the day it became clear that we wouldn’t be moving just yet, I think we both had the same thought:  bees.  So we called back, hoping there would still be a couple of packages available, and there were.

Yesterday was the latest possible day for our bees to arrive and we couldn’t think of anything else.  We’d been living for Wednesday, the day they would surely arrive.  We called the post office for the second day in a row and were told, “No bees.”  Our hearts sank.  Jonny went back out to work and I set about working in the kitchen and getting kids working on lessons.  There must have been some mistake.  Our bees must not have shipped after all.  But then, just as we’d given up hope, the phone rang.  I raced for it like a teenager, saw USPS on the caller i.d and answered with the word, “Bees?” instead of “Hello.”  Yes, our bees were there.  I tore out of the house and across the yard to Jonny’s office and like an excited child I practically shouted, “It’s time!  Our bees are at the post office!  We have to go get them!  Now!  Hurry!”  I ran back inside and worked quickly to make the kids presentable (not easy, as they’d been eating frozen blueberries) and we soon headed out to pick up 20,000 or so of our favorite insects.

We waited for the end of the day to install our packages.  Last year the installation of our bees was a bit of a disaster.  We were nervous and it started raining just as we got started.  If you haven’t read Jonny’s hilarious account of that adventure, you should.  This year everything went smoothly.  We agreed that we would take turns.  Jonny would install the first, and I, the second.  We’re kind of silly because I stood there in my jeans and tank top right next to Jonny pouring that first box of bees into the hive, not the least bit concerned myself with protective clothing.  Packaged bees aren’t typically aggressive (though we both managed to get stung during last year’s install) and we’d been told that these bees with their mixed genetics are very gentle, and they are, there were no stings.  But for the few minutes that we poured our bees into the hives, we both donned our jackets and gloves for extra confidence.

After pouring my package into it’s hive, the second of the two, we were a little worried because it seemed that most of them ended up flying in the air high above the hives.  There was literally a cloud of bees around us.  We watched the remaining bees for signs that they were calling the others to the hive, but saw none.  Oh no!  But then after about ten minutes, they all came down almost at once, landing on the top of the hive and pouring in.  I went back with my camera to get a photo.  The bees were landing on me, on my camera, and the buzzing was so loud.  I was just in my tank top and I could feel them on my neck and arms and head, but there was nothing to worry about.  Our bees were just trying to get home.  I made a movie and it is embedded below.  Youtube kind of ruins the quality, but you will get the idea.

Jonny asked me if our marriage would get better now and with a frown I looked at him and said, “What do you mean? Is our marriage bad?”   He replied, “No, but last year you said that getting bees was the best thing we ever did for our marriage.”  Oh yeah, I did say that.  And I think it’s true, that finding something that we both love and can share and do together has been really good. I can see Jonny now, outside my window walking down to check on our “Honeys,” on their first morning with us.

So, last year we “got bees” and then the bees all died, but we survived:  the deaths, the winter, and now it’s spring and we have bees again. Everything seems wonderful right now.

p.s.  The books pictured in this post are The Life and Times of the Honeybee which is a wonderfully illustrated book all about honeybees (not just for kids!), and A Hive of Busy Bees which isn’t actually really about bees, but life lessons taught to two children through stories on a summer long visit to their grandparents house.  This is our current bedtime reading and everyone loves it from Beatrix all the way up to Seth.  I highly recommend it.

Comments

  1. Oh.My.Goodness. Awesome video Ginny!

  2. Emily T. says:

    I read this post last week while at work and I was so happy to see that you all were keeping bees again this year. We’re waiting for ours to be delivered in three weeks up here. How exciting!

    I noticed that this year you kept all three supers stacked instead of starting with one like last year. Any particular reason for it?

    Good luck!

    • Hi Emily! Last year our bees were starting with nothing. They had to draw out all of their own comb and we added supers as they filled them. This year, we had drawn comb and capped honey from our last bees and while we debated between starting them with two or three supers we ended us just going with three. So we’ll see what happens with these guys.

  3. The Internet is such a small world!!
    I have been wanting to get my hands on this amazing embroidery pattern for a while now… and the other Nordic one its designer created! They are both on my list! I am not surprised at all to see you like it too!
    I love your bees… it’s such a great idea to have them in your backyeard! I live in the city, and we more and more often hear about hives in the cities which I think it’s great. I want nature to come back here… And we need to save those bees since they are disappearing…

  4. How wonderful! Where do you order your bees from? We are saving up to get a few hives started next year. 🙂 Such amazing creatures!

  5. My first though after reading the first part of this post was how beekeeping was such an interesting common interest for you and your husband to share… and then you continued my line of thought with Jonny’s comment on how it was good for your marriage. Funny! It must be true. 🙂

  6. Such an interesting world, this world of bees. Part of me is fascinated with the thought. Another part is terrified. For now I’ll watch through the computer screen. Thanks for sharing this part of your world with us : ).

  7. That first picture is so dear! My daughter has that HA dress too, it’s one of our favorites!

  8. I am going to a beekeeping class on Tuesday. I can’t wait!! Is Spring the only time of the year to get them?

  9. I am new to your blog and it is just lovely 🙂 Love your bees too!

  10. So excited to follow along on more bee adventures. That photo of Silas and the sandwich is one of my favorites ever. What’s going on with the calf bottle and the spray bottle?!

  11. So wonderful! I have been beekeeping for a few years, and this year had just one really strong and wonderful hive. However, with a weird warm spell, and then a really cold one, I lost my hive. I decided, that was it, I was done with it. Ha, I have ordered a package and of course I am going to continue. Here in Maine I have to wait a few more weeks, but your story and pictures gets me more excited…can’t wait to install my new honeys! Enjoy and good luck with yours, look forward to hearing more!

  12. your video is so cool! Congrats on the new bees!

  13. Your post is way cool! Good luck with the bees.

  14. We are always looking for a good read-aloud so I checked my library for the busy hive of bees book. They did not have it but when I looked on amazon I found the kindle edition is free:
    http://www.amazon.com/A-Hive-Busy-Bees-ebook/dp/B0084B5ANO/ref=tmm_kin_title_0
    Thought I’d share in case anyone else is interested!

  15. Knut (hubby) and I have talked a lot about getting bees, and we’ve checked out tons of books. We thought of starting some hives this year, but last summer, there was a hive incident at a cabin our family was at and 2 of our kids got stung. One of them was hurt but fine after awhile. The other one had a pretty bad reaction that put her out of commission for a little over a week. She got stung later in the summer too, with the same terrible reaction.

    So I was slowly starting to give up the hopes of ever having bees. Then Knut suggested we just move the placement of the hives to one of the abandoned homestead locations on our farm. If the hives were a 1/2 mile away, it wouldn’t be bad, right? We’re still dreaming…

  16. Oh my goodness that buzzing is so amazing! This might sound a bit silly, but it would be so fun to make a music video or something with that footage! Amazing!

    How many Queens did they send you? I thought I saw 1 or 2 in the video, but couldn’t tell!

  17. I’m planning to look at bees with the children, next week, so this video is ideal. Somewhere on my bookshelves, I have “A hive of busy bees” which I had as a child-must pull it out for the children.

  18. I love this. I am very hopeful that we can one day keep bees. Until then, I will continue to live vicariously through the interwebz!

  19. Amazing video! We’ve actually got a couple uninvited hives outside our house, and had another swarm descend and take residence next to our driveway a couple weeks ago. I know nothing of bees, and I was speechless when I realized the humming sound outside my window was not a helicopter, but a large tornado-like cloud of honeybees descending on our house. I’ve been so surprised with how unaggressive they are — we’ve got to pass within 5 feet of their hives to get in our house/get to our car, and no one’s been stung…yet! Best of luck with your bees — I wish I could send ours your way! Is St. Valentine a patron saint of bees and beekeepers? I think I remember reading that years ago in my grandma’s saints book.

  20. Glad to hear you’ll be keeping bees again! While I’d not keep bees myself, I would certainly be open to having someone keep them in my yard. Thanks for the video posting too. :>)

  21. I put in our two packages last weekend – same kind of weather as your first try apparently.

    This my third year – first year the hive went queenless and they were unsuccessful in making their own. I didn’t know i could get a new queen – now i do. Second year I started 3 hives b.c hubby said he would do it with me…..i still get cheers from the bedroom window, but no-one ventures out with me. This year we have 1 of the 3 hives surviving so i am trying again and ordered 2 packages.

    Apparently the 2 hives starved over the winter with food only 6 inches away – ah well.

    I have learned it is much more than a hobby – more like a hard-wiring of your personality that leads you down this path.

    I wish you the best and i will offer this: if you have a question, ask 5 people, check 5 books and then decide for yourself the best course of action. I felt better making mistakes when i finally went with my own best judgement.

    Regards,

    M

  22. Congratulations on your bees I will keep my fingers crossed that it all works out this year x

  23. yea, bees! your blog bee adventures are one of the reasons we are getting bees once we move into our new home. chickens next weekend and bees next year, i cant wait!

  24. I am a fairly new reader and love how your pictures and lovely words paint such a clear picture of your life. I felt like I needed my epi-pen just reading today.

    I can’t wait to live vicariously through you in your bee adventures.

    • The first thing my dad (who is a doctor) did when he visited us and our bees last year was to write us a prescription for an epi-pen for just in case! We’ve all been stung before and none have had a reaction yet, but evidently, you never know when you might have a bad reaction. I like knowing that epi-pen is up there on top of the fridge.

      • What a great plan. My mom said I was stung as a small child and was fine and then when I was 6 I was stung again and within moments was swollen and in an ambulance on my way to the hospital.

        Do all of your children know how to use it? We have taught ours that they need to do it asap and not to worry about hurting mom when they do it. We took them to the dr office and the nurse showed them with an empty needle and oranges.

  25. Ginny, have you thought about praying to one of the patrons of beekeepers? Or putting a medal on the hives? (or even a St. Benedict medal might be good – I’m sort of thinking as I’m typing) There seem to be several: St Ambrose, St. Valentine – not to mention St. Rita, who has a connection with bees. Or, having a priest come and bless the hives?

  26. What a cool post! My FIL use to raise bees~ My husband would help with them~ Your pictures always remind me of the children from the past. My children grew up playing outside with neighbor kids. Now my grands don’t play outside like that with neighbors. Times have changed so much. They do have friends over. Country playing is different than city playing for sure~! ♥♥♥

  27. Even if the bees you ordered are of a more aggressive variety, they have nothing to defend when they arrive as packages and are not difficult to handle for that reason alone. (They do not consider their box a “hive” because there is no comb, no brood, and no honey.) Veils are always necessary (just in case), but gloves really aren’t at this point. Having no gloves makes handling the boxes, bees, queen cage, and hive much easier.
    Good luck with your bees! They are fun. (Exception: when you’ve not gotten to them early enough in the spring and they are super testy because they are trying to swarm – yet again – and you are pulling out frame after frame looking for and cutting out the 12 swarm cells they’ve made. That was pretty awful.)

    • We’re beekeeping dummies, and did manage to get stung last year installing our bees! We learned the hard way not to install when there is a storm looming. And yes, I think it would be nearly impossible to deal with the queen cage etc. with gloves on. We were far more relaxed this year and only put them on for the shaking part. Also, we didn’t pay close attention last year and we ended up with a late swarm (that we didn’t catch) and the remaining bees never got their numbers up high enough to survive the winter. We’re hoping for better luck this year!

  28. I am so glad you have bees again!

  29. We have that book–it was my gift to my Gabriel, who attended Beekeeping School with me and who will be my assistant beekeeper when we get ours (maybe next spring–I can’t wait!), as he is the calmest of my kids around buzzing insects. It is really a great book, and as you say, not just for kids.

  30. That really is amazing! Do you know about how many bees live in each hive? It just seemed like they kept coming and coming.

  31. Bees are so important – did you ever read Elizabeth Goudge? Her book _linnets and valerians_ talks about bees as good, as signs of protection and the goodness of God. You may really love this book! 🙂

  32. I’m so happy you posted a video!! How neat! 🙂

  33. Yay! I’m so excited for you! And I can’t wait to hear about more bee adventures!

  34. Beatrix looks like ET in the beekeeper outfit! So cute!

  35. Yay! You must be so happy. Well, I can tell you are! The movie is mesmerizing.

  36. I have been dreaming of bees! So exciting!

  37. Loved this! My hubby wants to get a hive or two as soon as we move somewhere with a bigger yard.

  38. Oh how I would love to keep bees — so happy for you that you are able to start again! I’ve always wanted to, but now, with my disabilities, it just isn’t possible: I would need help of a sort that I just don’t have. I dream that we have bees though! They’re lovely dreams. 🙂

  39. Love the vídeo, thanks!
    And congratulations on your bees!

  40. Wow, amazing video, so glad you shared it!!

  41. So exciting! Enjoy!

  42. What is the little box in phot0 dsc_3925-22?

    • Oooh, good question. I should have maybe added an explanation. The queen bee is in that box. There is a hole at one end filled with candy. The other bees will eat through the candy to release her into the hive in the next couple of days (we helped by poking a bit of a hole in it ourselves before installing it.) Then we will remove the little box and hope to see signs that the queen is laying eggs soon thereafter!

  43. Gosh that sounds terrifying! I am not afraid of bees but that buzzing is so loud. I am so glad that you two have a hobby you can share. I am the biggest fan of solid marriages in this throw away world. 🙂

  44. I loved seeing and hearing you Honeys.

    It’s so important to a marriage to have interests and hobbies together, then when the babies are all grown you will still have something to do and talk about with your soulmate. Mike and I share our love for gardening together and have some wonderful dates pulling weeds. I’m glad you and Jonny have your bees.

  45. ahh!!!NICE VIDEO!!!! VERY EXCITING!

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