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Friday, December 30, 2016

Post #62: My First Cut-out Part 1

So now I am a beekeeper!  I have two hives.  I’ve read several books.  I belong to a couple of beekeeping forums.  I even went to a one-day Beekeeper School.  I must be an expert!

At least my friends seem to think so.  In reality, I know there is a whole lot I still don’t know.  I still don’t even know if I can keep a hive alive through the dearth months of the Summer, much less the Winter.

A somewhat hyperactive, maybe even impulsive Friend, called me one evening in July.  His friend had a colony of bees lodged between the roof and ceiling of his porch.  The Homeowner had called a local bee swarm remover.  The professional wanted $300 plus to remove the colony.  Homeowner had felt that the fee was too high.  Friend assured Homeowner that I would be glad to help them get the bees out of the house for free.

As I listened to Friend’s story, a small voice inside me was saying “NO, don’t do it.”  But a louder voice was saying “What an adventure!”  Of course, the louder voice won out!  After all, I was an expert now, wasn’t I (see above)?  I had even watched several YouTube videos of people catching swarms, so I should be able to handle this.

I agreed to get the bees if Friend would help and would keep the bees.  I also advised Friend that I can tear apart, but not put back together.  I have had a lot of experience over the years taking things apart.  I’ve also had a lot of experience attempting to put things back together.  I am definitely better at creating chaos than at creating organization.

Not to worry, Friend reminded me that he has good carpentry skills, and Homeowner is a cabinet maker.  The two of them will make sure everything is rebuilt and in good order once we have removed the bees.

Friend found an online store and bought his own beekeeper's outfit and starter hive.  We waited a week for everything to arrive and for Friend to build and paint the hive.

In the meantime, I built a bee vacuum out of surplus plywood I've got lying around.  I'm not a carpenter, and the bee vacuum looks like it.  There are at least two different thicknesses of plywood.  The suction hose does not fit tightly, and there are a few gaps along the edges. 

The key to a bee vacuum is that you want just enough suction to pull the bees in.  Too much suction and you damage or kill the bees as they bang against the hose or land hard in the box.  Hence, my lousy carpentry was an asset in this instance.  There were lots of air leaks.

I was ready for this new adventure.  Soon, I would add the title of Bee Swarm Remover to my resume!  Tomorrow I would venture out and rescue Homeowner’s house from a colony of bees that had invaded their home.
But for now, it was time to rest and wait for dawn.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Post # 61: Still trying to Buy Bees

It is now January, and I’ve just learned that I have to wait until April to get my package of bees!  I’m practicing patience, and starting my journey into bee knowledge.

Almost immediately after clicking the “order” button at RWeaver, I bought some books, found some online Beekeeper Forums, and started doing the research.  Almost everyone suggests you start with two hives.  That way, if one hive gets weak, you can call on the resources of the second hive to help rescue the weak one.

OK.  I needed to change my order.  So, I waited until the following Monday.  Mondays are the best time to talk to the RWeaver Lady.  When Monday rolled around, I called the RWeaver Lady.  I asked if I could change my order from one package to two packages.  She agreed that two packages would be better.  She advised that I ignore the invoice she was sending, and she would send out a new invoice.

More reading, more opinions about the best way to start a hive.

Another term I had never heard of emerged from the pages: “Nucs.”  Short for Nucleus. 

A Nuc is like half of a hive.  Instead of the standard ten frames of comb filled with 50,000 bees or so, it has five frames, filled with 20,000 bees or so.  The frames already have comb built on them.  The queen is already working and laying eggs, the bees have already stored honey and pollen.  It is a working mini-hive.

Another Monday phone call.  The RWeaver lady knows my name by now.  I’m pretty sure she just rolls her eyes and digs out a new order-form every time she sees my phone number.  I asked about Packages versus Nucs, and what she thought.

The advantage, of course, is that the bees in nucs don’t have to do as much work to get established, and so they have a better chance of “Surviving the Winter.”

It seems that the number one concern for the beekeeper is to help their hive survive the winter.  Winter is hard on the bees and seems to be pretty hard on the beekeeper, too.  I mean, it is January, I don’t even have any bees yet, and I’m already worried about getting my bees through next winter.  I’ll get gray hair worrying about these bees and the next winter.

Oh yeah.  My hair is already gray.

“Please change my order from two packages to two Nucs.”  She again advised me to “ignore the invoice that she just sent …”

“… and you’ll send out a new one” I finished for her.

Well.  The bees have been ordered.  It is still January, and April seems like forever getting here.  I didn’t call the RWeaver lady anymore.  I admit that I sent her an email in March, letting her know that I’d be willing to pick up my nucs if they happened to be available sooner.  She politely let me know she would keep that in mind.  Of course, we both knew that wasn’t really going to happen.

During this long wait, I kept occupied by ordering woodenware and tools and bee-related gadgets right and left. 

Did I mention we’re doing this because Wife wanted bees for her garden?  It’s not about me.  No, really.  It’s not. 

It’s for Wife.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Post # 60: Buying Bees 25 years later

With my first bit of research, I learned that I wanted to buy a “Package” of bees.  I had bought my queens from Weaver Apiary back in the 1980’s, and so I had some trust in the name (see posts 49 & 50).  Well, actually, it was the only place I knew of that sold bees.  I hadn’t really researched other options.

The Weaver Apiary had, like bees often do, swarmed and split into two or three different apiaries.  There was BWeaver and RWeaver in Navasota.  And I think there is a third Weaver in Arizona. 

I went online and researched the new apiaries.  I settled on the one that was the direct descendant of old man Weaver; RWeaver.  When I bought a queen back in the 1980’s, I bought a queen who was supposed to be calm and friendly.  The last thing I wanted was a cranky old bee.  So I bought a bee that was from the “Buckfast” line of bees.

Well, fast forward a few decades, and we now have bees that are so intermixed, it is difficult to know whether the bee is truly from one line of bees or another.  Apparently queens are not picky when it comes to choosing mates.  She may go out on a mating flight only once, but when she does, she mates with a lot of different fellas.

In recognition of the wanton ways of queen bees, RWeaver has named one of their lines of bees the “All-American” bee.  I pictured her wearing Superman tights and a red white and blue cape flowing down her back.

I went to Package Bees, selected the All-Americans and got set to click on the Order button.  There were options.  When would I like to get my bees?

Well, today of course!  I’m ready right now.  It was January when I was looking at the site. 

I clicked on the drop-down box and the earliest date available was …



I had to make my first phone call to RWeaver.  I quickly learned that everybody at RWeaver works with the bees.  The receptionist was out in the field and asked if I could call her back on Monday, when she’d be in the office working on orders.

I waited until Monday and called: “Are you sure I can’t get my bees any sooner?” 

“No, they won’t be ready.” 

“Sigh, ok.” And I hung up.

Being the impulsive guy that I am, I went back onto the computer and ordered the package of bees.

“OK,” I thought to myself, “this gives us some time to dig into research and learn everything there is to know about beekeeping before they arrive.”

If only it were that simple!