Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hiving the Bees and Bee Cupcakes

I started keeping bees about 20 years ago.  It was a summer I really needed a lot to do.  I kept chickens, had a big (80' x 80') garden, had a baby and a toddler and I decided to keep bees.  Yes, I was crazy.  I no longer keep chickens but bees are something I still enjoy.  In Alaska it is hard to keep the bees over the winter, so beekeepers usually buy new ones every spring.  They come in a 3 lb. or 4 lb. box which contains about 10,000-13,000 bees and a queen in her own special box.  By the end of the summer we will have well over 20,000-40,000 bees.

When the bees come to Fairbanks in the spring, you have to feed them sugar water.  Right now there is no other food for them.  Most of the time you leave some honey in the hive from last year, so bees have some honey along with the sugar water.  You also have to provide fresh water for them for a while.

The twins and the boys across the street came to help with the hiving.  This is before the top comes off so no flying bees yet.
So here is the process of hiving bees.  I pick my bees up at Toklat Apiaries.  I get them home and get everything ready.  I have a spray bottle full of sugar water, sugar water and water jars ready, the hive has been cleaned (really not a lot to do there, the bees take care of it), the entrance is closed up (it stays closed for a couple of days so they get used to the new hive and the hive becomes "home"), the top is off and a frame is pulled from the super, and I put my bee suit on (yes, it is very attractive.  I know you want one).
Everyone took a turn spraying the bees with sugar water before we opened the box.  The silver circle on the top comes off to open the box.

I spray the bees down with sugar water.  This does two things, it feeds them after their long flight and day in the bee box, and it makes it so they can't fly.  The bees are busy cleaning each other, eating the sugar water and it calms them down.
The top is if off the bee box and I'm spraying the bees with more sugar water.

I take the top off the box, pull out the bag of travel food, and dump the bees into the open hive.  The queen is kept in a separate box, I spray her down and open the box CAREFULLY, and dump her into the hive (one year I killed the queen while opening her box, thankfully the bee guy had a couple extra queens for clumsy hivers like me).  This year, the queen box was a little different.  I hope I got her wet enough and she stayed in the hive.  We'll find out in a couple of weeks if there are any larva.

I put the frame back into the super, put the lid on, add the sugar water and water, put an empty super on the top and put the lid on.  That is all there is to it.  Every morning I bring out a filled bottle of sugar water and a bottle of fresh water and in a couple of days I'll take the entrance cover off so they can come and go.  I feed them until they start bringing pollen in the hive (you can see it on their legs in their "pollen baskets") and when there are some things blooming so they have a food supply.  Then I take the empty super off that holds the jars of food and water.  Later in the summer, I'll add one more super full of frames onto the hive.
Here you see three supers, the top one is empty of frames to hold the jars of water and sugar water.

My husband is very tolerant of my bee keeping.  I keep them on the front deck, it is the warmest place and we don't use that deck for anything anyway.  And he jokes because I don't always collect the honey.  I just like keeping bees.  This year we have to collect the honey though.  The blond boy in California loves honey, and it is too expensive to buy it for him and the cost of shipping.  Collecting my own will cut costs there.

One last note, when the blond boy was in middle school, he kept bees with me for the summer.  His older brother was the photographer.  We were hiving the bees and everything went well.  All of a sudden, the language from the older brother's mouth!  He got stung taking pictures, standing across the yard.  Poor guy, he wouldn't take pictures the rest of the summer! Luckily no one got stung this year hiving the bees.
I found this idea from Fowl Single File (find her blog here).  Hers looked so much better than mine, but they still were fun.  I sent them over to the twins and the boys to thank them for helping me hive the bees.  I made mine with my favorite chocolate cake recipe and added cream cheese frosting, then followed the directions from Fowl Single File.

May 2, 2012     Daylight  17 hours,  14 minutes,  38 seconds     Current Temp.  30 ºF

1 comment:

  1. Michelle LittellMay 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I have to say YOURS looked better! They were very creative and the boys loved them!


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