Last weekend, Carolyn and I went to Athens, Ga to pick up bees (NUCS) from Jennifer Berry, for the bee farm as well as some for Jess. She is starting her own Bee Yard in Athens. These were some of the nicest bees I've seen; really, they were very NICE. They hardly got upset or irritated at all. They were very gentle. We were very pleased with them. I don't know what Jess will call her bee yard, maybe something like "Dudes Bee Ranch".
We rushed home early to make it easy on our cargo (we left before dawn. This is not unusual for us, but we had a reason this time). We arrived home safe and sound after taking the bees out for breakfast at McDonald's around Chattanooga. James and I installed the bees without a hitch; we've done that a few times now.
It's so much different than the first time some thirty years ago. I didn't know what or how to install the bees, but I was dumb enough to try and lucky enough to pull it off. Jess will be apprehensive in the beginning as well. My advice to any "new-bee" is do your homework first, than do what you think is best for the bees. Don't worry-- the bees have existed for thirty million years, despite well meaning beekeepers.
The first part of the week was spent catching up around the farm. Bees had to be fed, checked for swarm cells, and supers installed. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the Tennessee Masters program class was held in Livingston. John A. Skinner was the professor. He is one of the best bee men anywhere; we were lucky to have had him. Twenty hours would of instruction would be a long time with someone not so prepared as he. The weather was stormy all three days, which made staying inside not so bad. We were fortunate not to have damage as other places did. It was almost a year ago that bad weather brought terrible flooding to our area. Read this article to learn more about that.
This is for sure the most exciting time of year in the bee yard; there is so much to do and so little time to do it. The bees are extra excited as well. Spring is wonderful and I feel blessed to part of it. I did my first queen graft for the year this week; only one took, but it was beautiful cell. Sorry, I don't have time to go into details. I will save that for another post.
In blog news, there was some discussion here at the apiary of looking for a new editor for the blog. We want someone who will do as good of a job as Jess, but who expects as little pay and as little thanks as she gets. We want some one to do the same job without the same "I'm the boss" attitude. If you know anyone interested in the job, please pass their name along.
(Editors Note: I felt free to share this job opening, as I feel confident no one else will want my post. I did want to issue a warning to a certain beekeeper- It is not a good idea to get on the wrong side of your publicist...)
Here are some more pics from Jessie's installation.
As I have just finished reading Queen Rearing Essentials by Lawrence John Connor for the fourth time, I'm reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis: “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” Queen rearing is big on my list this year, I think that is the height of beekeeping.
It seems most of the bees came through winter well with few exceptions. I lost the one of my best hives to "Whoknowswhat",the name I gave to the affliction that kills bees when I don't have a clue why. Actually, I do in this case, but I don't want to talk about it because it could reflect back to the beekeeper (or bad "bee-havior", no pun intended, or rather, no fun intended) and regardless, I'm not sure the real cause anyway.
The winter was bad, the spring was somewhat better. The bees seemed to fare well, and I must claim credit whether I deserve it or not. Beekeepers are charged with the task of swarm prevention as well as early spring build up; unfortunately, the two don't go hand and hand. I have reversed the hives that need it (putting the top hive on the bottom and bottom on top to give the queen room to lay eggs and prevent swarming. The queen will almost always move up to the top box and not move down, even if the top becomes crowded. The bees will think they have no room and will make preparations to swarm). I have split what needed to be split, meaning I took bees and brood from some to give space for egg laying to prevent swarming and ensure a good honey harvest .
Hanna, Catalina, and their dad Bennett, are pictured above, shaking their girls into their new home.
As always, as part of my giving back to the bee community, I have spent some time helping other beekeepers, cousin Dwight for one as well as others. This always is a learning experience for me and hopefully for them as well. One thing we are proud of is our effort in helping new- beekeepers get started. This year it was helping sisters Hanna and Catalina acquire bees to pursue their new hobby. They have been interested in beekeeping for some time, and they have visited and helped with our bees for several years . Sometimes I wonder if the draw is Carolyn's cookies she always makes when she finds out the girls are coming.
Carolyn and I are looking forward to traveling to Athens, Georgia to pick up bees at Jennifer Berry's Queenery and helping Jessie set her own apiary. Also we hope everyone will check out Jessie's new bee blog The Beeman's Daughter; for us, it is like reading a letter from our favorite Daughter (Jessie maintains that she is not favorite, just first. Our other "daughter", Sheba, went to rest many years ago after a devoted life of chasing chickens and protecting bicycles).
Greg and Eddie Cope pictured above setting up a Moodyville bee yard.
I recently spent some time with Eddie Cope of Pickett County who helped set up some hives I purchased from him . It is always good to spend time with someone as knowledgeable, has such a feel for bees, and willingness to share as Edd . I can't say enough about him; if I do Jessie will just edit it out anyway (the editor maintains that all judgement calls are in the best interest of our readers, and are not subject to shameless pandering). All in all, everything is going well here at Holt Bee Farm. Look for more frequent future updates. As we all know in the bee world, springtime is when it really gets exciting! Wishing you all a happy Spring!