Being a beekeeper is hard.
Trying again now, quickly after harvesting greater than 60 kilos of honey, my spouse and I can lastly recall at a sequence of struggles and failures that has led to success, as a substitute of brooding on a sequence of failures with no information of what success would even really feel like.
The earlier struggles have made the honey we harvested this yr all of the sweeter. We have additionally gained an appreciation for bees themselves, how mighty but finicky they are often, how powerful and the way fragile.
My spouse dragged the household into beekeeping initially in 2020 (lots of people made loopy choices that yr) and so we bought every part wanted to get began. We received fits, a smoker, a deep hive physique with baseboard and lid. I even scrounged up cinderblocks and an previous pallet for a stand to maintain the hive off the bottom and away from (some, not all) predators.
Then we added bees. It was a package deal of Italian bees from California, shipped to us together with a queen in a separate field. The problems began nearly instantly. Whereas attempting to interrupt off among the sweet blocking the doorway to the queen, I by accident eliminated it utterly. We by no means knew if that queen ever went within the hive. The package deal of bees we opened, shook and dumped into the hive, fairly probably the scariest expertise ever. The picket package deal continues to be discarded on our property — I do not suppose any of us needed to select it up and relive the horrible reminiscence.
Anyway, we ordered one other queen to allay fears the primary one hadn’t gone in, after which a 3rd when on a later inspection we could not spot the marked queen.
However we could not catch a break. We needed to transfer the hive so Weed and Pest might spray leafy spurge on our property, and shortly after the colony merely died out. They hadn’t even made it to honey harvesting time.
We had swung and missed, however solely struck one. So the following spring, we tried once more, this time ordering a nuc (5 established frames of a colony with a queen) from an organization based mostly in Wyoming. And we received harder Carniolan bees.
With Hive No. 2, massive pink ants turned an issue, invading the hives and finishing up lifeless bees. Some ants could be anticipated on lots of hives, however this was unhealthy, so we moved the hive away from the main ant colonies, and took out any ant colonies within the space we might for good measure. This appeared to work, and are available harvesting time we inspected the hive to seek out honey. It gave the impression to be sufficient for them for the winter, however simply sufficient, so we did not harvest and as a substitute winterized the hive with hops to see bees once more in spring.
And would not it, after we checked within the spring, the bees had been there. We had efficiently overwintered a hive. We celebrated, however not for lengthy. A few weeks later we went out to the hive to seek out the bees had been gone. Not all lifeless, simply gone. They’d swarmed, and we quickly found the possible cause: throughout the hole of one of many cinderblocks, hidden from view, was an ant colony plagued by bee carcasses. The ants hadn’t gotten all the bees, however clearly the hive wasn’t thrilled, so it packed up the queen and left. We searched however could not discover the swarm.
We had been too dedicated to stop. We had really simply put in three new hives down at my father’s small ranch in Douglas, however we needed bees at residence too, so my son and I drove to Worland to select up one other nuc. My spouse discovered metal bases to carry up the hive and stop ants from getting in, after which we had been up and working with extra bees, albeit a bit later than traditional.
And but, after we went to reap not too long ago, we had honey and sufficient to take some. It wasn’t as a lot as our three hives in Douglas would yield per week later, nevertheless it was sufficient to present the uncapping knife and body spinner a take a look at.
There’s nothing like that first style of honey, that first style of success.