My First Years

My interest for being an apiarist started in late 2017. I attended a meeting, read a couple of books, and placed an order for a package of bees. Spring of 2018 could not come fast enough for me as my bees were set to arrive late March. I picked up my package from the post office and brought the girls home. I sprayed some sugar syrup on the screen and covered the crate with a blanket as per instructed by what I have read.

After a couple of days I placed the new colony into their new home. I was very excited to have them and would just watch them come and go for the next few days. Until one day before work, I noticed a lot of bees flying around an evergreen tree and gathering on a branch. I checked my hive and it was completely empty! My bees that I placed in there a couple of days ago had absconded.

I started to worry, how am I going to get them back, what do I do? I grabbed a pillow case and placed it on a long pole that could reach them up in the tree and covered them. When I arrived home from work (around midnight), I grabbed a tree saw so I could attempt to cut the branch and have the cluster stay contained in the pillow case, easier said than done. The branch was cut and the bees were not happy, as they fell about 15 feet inside a pillow case hitting other branches. I gathered as many bees as I could find and placed the pillow case with branch inside the hive box.The next day I checked on them and removed the foreign items from the box. To my surprise they stayed in the box.

Throughout my reading I learned about mites, small hive beetles, and more things that can cause problems in a colony if not controlled. As the months passed, the bees were doing great until one day I noticed a lot of little black bugs all inside the hive. I had a small hive beetle outbreak! There were little maggots all over the place destroying everything the bees had worked so hard to build. I removed all the frames that had these maggots on them and froze them for a couple of days. I then treated for mites and squashed any beetle I saw, but it was already too late. The damage was too severe and the bees were hurting.

Wax moths moved in and laid eggs, yellow jackets started robbing, and ants found a new food source. The girls did not even make it through the first part of winter. I was very discouraged and upset that I failed.

I ordered another package for the spring of 2019 and began reading more, watching videos, and talking to anybody to gain more knowledge. Spring arrived and I also received a package of bees from a friend that did not want them. So I now have two colonies to manage. This year I was more knowledgeable and proactive for things to do. I treated for mites, set beetle traps, squashed any beetles I saw. Winter comes along and I make sure to feed them before it becomes to cold. Everything was going great, until the end of February 2020.

For about a week the temp had risen to the low 50's and the bees were out flying around doing their thing to clean themselves and the colony. Then out of nowhere the temp drops to almost zero. It stayed bitterly cold for the next week or so until it gradually started to warm up towards the end of March.

I went to check on the bees during a mid 60's day and noticed no activity at the entrance. I opened the hive and found the bees in both colonies all throughout the hive frozen in time. I spoke to another bee keeper and they thought they starved to death even though there was an abundance of resources on a lot of the frames. My theory is that they were unable to build the heat back up in the hives after the week of being in the 50's and they just froze.

Since it was already spring time and it was very late to order more bees for this year. I waited until August to order three colonies for the spring of 2021. This time I order different subspecies hoping that they could survive winter a lot better.

Spring of 2021 arrives and I receive my three colonies, Italian, Russian, and Carniolan. The first two years I used Italian since everything said, "for a new bee keeper use Italian bees". Well in my experience they are not good in cold climates. All three colonies are doing great and winter comes.

I tried something different this year. I insulated very surface and wrapped it to eliminate any cold air from getting to the boxes. Spring 2022 comes and all three hives made it. I was excited, I thought to myself I have finally figured this out. The colonies started growing rapidly, which allowed me to split the Russians and Carnies.

They were still growing rapidly and ended up swarming. I was able to catch the Carniolan swarm, but the Russians were out of reach. I had multiple wild swarms enter my property which I caught and added to my apiary. I am now up to nine colonies and was able to harvest honey for the first time.

This hobby is a lot of work, but for me it is a lot of fun too. I enjoy watching the bees do their thing and also learn something new about them all the time. I hope to keep growing my apiary as one day I would like to have my own business in apiculture.