Sunday, June 8, 2014

How I started beekeeping

I have never considered taking up beekeeping for fun or work until early September 2013.  I remember sitting on the back patio watching some worker bee dying on the concrete.  (She was probably at the end of her natural life.)  I was thinking about some article discussing how the honey bees were disappearing in North America.  It was one of those moments where I was between obsessions and I thought that I could do my part to save the honeybees in my part of the world.  This is extremely silly in retrospect, considering that honey bees were introduced to the new world by Europeans.  But the honey bee does play a major part in our modern agriculture and increased productivity.
    It didn't take me a week to begin doing research on beekeeping.  I found one of the most informative forums and registered an account with them (Bee Source).  This site is a wealth of information, and it is one of my favorite places to visit.  My user name there is Needo.  On this site I got to learn about different kinds of hives (langstroth, warre, top bar, ect...).  Each of these hives have their strong points, and all are worth trying.  Yet, I had to decide on a hive to start with.  I chose a top bar design for the simple reason that it is not standardized.  I have never been one to follow instructions to the line.  This design gives me the most room to tinker with.  From what I have read in books and in discussion forums the bees can take care of themselves in spite of my interference.  I will talk more about the design and my reasoning behind the features and modifications in a future blog entry.
     Some time in December I committed my self to the venture by placing an order for two 4 lb. packages with Honey Hive Farms.  Tim Moore is a very nice person to work with.  The deciding factor for why I ordered from him is that he has four different delivery routs.  And, Amarillo is on one of those routs.  I ordered two packages so that I would have resources to assist the other hive.  Also it let me do a comparison between two hives to see what is normal.  This last part hasn't quite worked out so well.  I have discovered that  every hive has its own individual quirks.  There seems to be no rule set in stone when it comes to beekeeping.
     Although the packages were suppose to arrive in early April, It wasn't until May 10th before I received my packages.  This was the first practical lesson I got in beekeeping.  Don't rely on a date for events to happen in agriculture.  The weather doesn't know what a calender is, and it will do what it is going to do.  The harsh winter caused a delay on when the packages were ready.  Unfortunately, I was out of town when the bees arrived.  My wife was kind enough to pick up the packages for me.  I still wish I could have met Tim in person to thank him for the experience to follow.  I did get in that afternoon and installed my first packages just before evening.  I apologize for not getting that experience on video.  I was very nervous and in bit of a hurry to beet the sunset.  I will say now that shaking the packages for the first time has been the most exciting experience.  Also in hind sight it is the safest time with the bees.  They don't have anything to defend, so they are at their most docile state.
     This is how my beekeeping experience has started.  Now my focus is to not kill my bees before next spring.  This is a very daunting task to someone that just picked up this hobby on a whim.

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