Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Hive & The Beekeeper's Bible

The hive is alive!
DSC_1658 
Last spring when Justin & I became accidental beekeepers, we found ourselves the proud parents of 10,000 new daughters {give or take a couple thousand}. We hadn't had time to prepare, we hadn't taken classes in beekeeping like my sister, who was keeping bees herself. We had to learn a lot, very fast, if we wanted to keep the colony, and also keep them happy and alive.

I've been nervous all winter for our little bee daughters. Not only did our colony seem to not have the strongest start {they didn't quite take off and boom into a productive hive the way my sister's did}, winter can be a concern, especially for a weak hive. All colonies are different, they have their own personalities really, ours has been a quiet one.

This is Denver, folks. Temperatures here in the winter can and do sometimes get down to below 0°. We have lots of warm days too, but the point is that our little hive had to survive the frigid cold. They don't have blankets or heaters, all they do is huddle into a tight ball around the queen to keep the colony warm. Amazingly, the ball of bees can be around 90° in the center, even if there is a blizzard going on right outside their hive.

They need enough warm days too, so they can go out on poop flights a few times. If they can't get out to cleanse themselves, they can get sick and die.

So, for obvious reasons, I have been concerned that our little hive might not survive the winter alright. And sadly, there really isn't a whole lot you can do for them over the winter. It's March, still a cold month for Colorado. We could get a couple more dumps of snow even up to May.
DSC_1650 Though this morning, when we got home from church, I looked over at our hive and it was busy and active! It's a warm, beautiful day so I figured they were coming out to stretch their wings and take a poop flight. We walked over to get a closer look, and to my surprise and delight, we saw tons of bees coming and going--but the ones coming back had big, beautiful baskets full of pollen. All these photos were taken today.

Not just a few bees, every second it seemed like another one came in for a landing with her pollen baskets filled to the brim. See the yellow clumps on their hind legs? That's their pollen baskets. My friends, spring is here. Like the dove with the olive branch, the bees bring the promise of spring, a living earth.
DSC_1634
I wanted to clap and cheer them on, "Yeah! You go girls!" And it was such sweet relief. After a winter of fretting for our little hive, to see them foraging--already!--when I haven't even seen a single flower in bloom around here. I have no idea where they are finding this pollen. But they are finding it!

Hopefully we'll be able to harvest some honey this year. Last year the hive was too new, we needed to leave them enough food to survive the winter, even supplementing them with some sugar syrup.

Bees are truly a remarkable species. God's brilliant design for bees and the way a colony works is just incredible. The more I've learned about how their complex social structure and instincts really work, the more blown away I am by these tiny creatures. Our world would literally not survive without them. There can be as much drama in a colony as there was in the Borgia family. Their shrewd instincts make them seem so much more intelligent than their tiny brains should allow for. And they keep food on our tables, they really do. There is order and intelligence in God's kingdom, and the bees are certainly a part of it.

We are thankful for bees.

I want to share this amazing book with you, for anyone who might be interested not just in beekeeping themselves, but for anyone even somewhat curious about bees. Behold, The Beekeeper's Bible:
The Beekeeper's Bible
Not only is it a beautiful book to look at--love the cover design!--it's very aptly named.

It's a 415 page beast of a book, almost every page has full color photos and it's just a total plethora of information on ALL things regarding bees & beekeeping.
The Beekeeper's Bible - colony
Photos that will amaze you, it's worth checking out at the library at the very least. We had to own it, after checking it out from the library ourselves.

This image of a swarming hive is very much what it looked like when I saw our colony swarm last spring. They landed right outside our bedroom winter and we successfully hived them that afternoon. It was such a sight to behold, I tell you.
The Beekeeper's Bible - swarming
The book includes many recipes on foods and beauty products that can be made by using honey, beeswax, and royal jelly.
The Beekeeper's Bible - recipes
You can learn about hive construction, there are many styles of hives. Ours is a Langstroth.
The Beekeeper's Bible - hive design
There are also many species of bees, more breeds than you would think. We're pretty sure ours are Carniolans, but they aren't as dark as some, so they could be Carniolan-Italian hybrids. Italians are very beautiful bright yellow.
The Beekeeper's Bible - bees
A very large section of the beginning covers the history of beekeeping, which again, an incredible plethora of information here. It's fascinating.
The Beekeeper's Bible - history
This book leaves absolutely no stone unturned when it comes to beekeeping, you can even learn about how different flowers produce different types of honey. They come in a variety of colors and flavors, depending on the flowers and plants the bees have access to. {I would love to try Heather honey some day, which is dark, aromatic, and said to have a rich smoky taste somewhat like toffee.}
The Beekeeper's Bible - flowers
Even if you have no plan of ever keeping bees yourself, this book is worth a good look at. You wouldn't believe how much there is to learn about these tiniest of creatures who help keep our world alive.
The Beekeeper's Bible by Richard A. Jones & Sharon Sweeney-Lynch
And our hive is alive! I'm so happy.

Spring is here, the bees have the pollen to prove it!

4 comments:

  1. Awwwww--they're so CUTE--comin' in with their little baskets all filled up. I'm so glad they seem to have survived the winter :-)
    I still think it was just TOO DARN WEIRD that an entire swarm of bees showed up in your tree shortly after your sister started beekeeping. I don't know the reason for it, but methinks this was more than coincidence...

    ~Mom

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    Replies
    1. I know, it was meant to bee, wasn't it? ;-)

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  2. Heather - I'm so excited for you! That's something my husband and I have talked about possibly doing in the future. We use so much honey so it'd be wonderful to have our own. Plus, honey bees are so good for our gardens. I'll be honest, though, and say the thought of beekeeping intimidates me.

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    Replies
    1. Amber, you should definitely look into it! It still intimidates me too, but on the other hand I'm SO glad we've taken it on. I haven't been stung yet either :)

      Yet.

      And farmers who keep bees have been known to increase their crop yield by 70%! So it's great for gardens!

      Thanks for the lovely comment, as always, you're so sweet.

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