Inside: Raising honey bees is not for the light of heart. It takes a great deal of work and patience. But it is a project so wonderful for the environment. You are protecting a species that has a major impact in the food chain through pollination. By raising honey bees you are also protecting other endangered pollinators by creating a landscape attractive to them. *There are affiliate links in this post. If you click I might make a small commission but at no cost to you ever.
Raising honey bees? I never thought I’d be involved in such a venture.
When you get Asked to Help Raise Honey Bees
A number of months ago, a friend of my youngest son asked if he could keep a few of his honeybee hives on our farm. Life had brought us some interesting twists and turns as of late so I thought this would be an awesome distraction from some of the pitfalls we’d been facing. I was not wrong.
In early May, Brian “dropped off” his bees. He has only been raising honey bees for the past year or so himself. Two hives were set up. I mustered the courage to get involved and so far I haven’t been disappointed. Brian is knowledgeable and patient. I am learning a lot helping him out. If you’re really keen on raising bees, Storey’s Guide to Raising Bees is a great reference to have on hand.
Raising Honey Bees Comes with Risks
He has already split the two hives he initially dropped off and we now have four hives. One hive in particular got a bit angry after being treated with formic acid for mite control. Varroa mites are a real danger to bee populations. You’ve got to be on top of pest control if you want to have a successful colony of honey bees. Back to my story, the next day it got very hot which caused way more formic acid to vaporize. Needless to say I’ve been stung several times already. I have to say though that honey bee stings are way easier to take than wasp stings.
My oldest son the environmentalist is helping out a lot with the bees. Connor is all for protecting our endangered creatures. At our local Turtle Trauma Center, he works with injured turtles, raising the eggs collected from injured or dead female turtles and releasing rehabilitated individuals back from whence they came when they are ready. He loves his job.
Persistence, Bravery and A lot of Work is Required
But back to the bees. A hive is only as calm as its Queen. Apparently one of our hives has a queen bee that produces some pretty aggressive workers. Not ideal for a backyard bee hive. Every couple of years queen bees are killed and replaced to keep up brood production. Brian brought in some queens from ‘chill’ bees. Hopefully my sting count goes down with the new brood, lol. It takes 5 to 7 weeks for the worker bees from the old queen to die off and be replaced by brood from the new Queen. We should know in a month or so if the new Queen is indeed producing calmer bees.
I’m learning a lot working with Brian and the bees. How to identify the different types of bees. How to find the queen. What to look for when they might swarm. (Last thing you want to do is freak out your neighbors with a swarm of bees on their property). Raising honey bees is definitely not a set up the hive and let them do their thing kind of enterprise. They take constant watching and management. There are so many things to monitor. But the rewards are sweet if you are successful. I am looking forward to the honey harvest later this summer. Check out this offering from Amazon if you’d like to read more about bee behavior.
The more I learn, the more I will share with you. In the meantime, don’t spray those dandelions in your lawn. They are amazing food for the bees. Flowering plants and many trees are also potential nectar and pollen sources for the bees. Keep bees in mind when planting a garden and landscaping your property. They are an endangered group of insects and are so important for the food chain.