Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Beekeeping for You? An article and a giveaway!

Bees are fascinating. Honey is delicious. You understand the honey bee's importance to pollination.

But do you really want to become a beekeeper? 

Over at Natural Home magazine, they've got an excerpt from a new book, titled Homemade Living: Keeping Bees with Ashley English.  Part of Chapter 2 is available for you to read: "What to Consider: To Bee, or Not To Bee."  On closer inspection of Ashley's work, she's got three other books out, on the topics of raising chickens, canning, and making homemade dairy products. If you check her out soon she's giving away a copy, so visit her blog and leave a comment.

If you have questions about beginning beekeeping, feel free to ask.  I may not know the answer, but I can find out or point you in the right direction.  Getting started in MS?  There's still grant money through MBA if you want to start two hives.  Beekeeping classes are coming up all over the state, courtesy of the Extension Service (scroll down on this page for both the grant info. and the beekeeping short courses). 

We're having a ball, and encourage anyone to try it.  "Less work than a dog, but more work than a cat," is how one person phrased it. Bees will never come when you call them, but I'll take honey over dog breath and cat hair any day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bee Season has Begun at Prairie Blossom Bee Farm!

On Saturday, we cleaned up our car port.  A recent storm had blown hay, pine straw, potting soil, and leaves all over.  Mark and I spent hours, washing equipment, inventorying, setting aside stuff to sell (seed spreader and moquito-killing machine), and generally getting organized.   
A tidy stack of hive bodies.

Then we went to Sherwin-Williams to continue our quest to buy local, and decided on paint colors.  With all white hives, there's a chance for drift, and changing up some colors and patterns is supposed to help the bees orient themselves to "home." Besides, it's fun and colorful!  "We don't get many requests for bright yellow exterior paint," commented the salesman, so we had to go with an interior/exterior gloss.

Mark wanted colors that would reflect light so that the hives wouldn't get too hot in the summertime.  Local beekeeper Art Potter is known for his patriotic red, white, and blue hives, so that was out.  I decided to take inspiration from my fun winter project.

We chose yellow and blue.  Then we ordered some stencils so we could decorate them with bees and blossoms.
Cheerful and Candid Blue.  

On Sunday, we did a quick, top-super-only check of Hives 5 & 6 since they didn't get included last weekend.  Loads of honey stores visible, so we left them alone.  It was cloudy and windy, and thus too stressful for the bees to attempt deeper investigation.  For the first time we tried using a tea towel as a hive drape, and it worked like a charm to send the bees down into the hive as opposed to out in the air.
Mark painted some hives on Monday, and when I got home on Tuesday, he was assembling frames. Last night I made him a poster to advertise that he'll catch local swarms and trap out unwanted bees.  This morning before work he asked me how many hives we should plan to add, and moments ago when I called him on my lunch break, he was outside working on frames again.

It's official: hunting season is over, and bee season has begun in earnest.

Bees of All Kinds: A Slideshow

At the blog Global Swarming Honeybees, this link to a slideshow featuring beautiful photography of bees of all types by Dr. Kevin Matteson, about whom you can learn here. If you click on "show info" you can see the types of bees identified -- their diversity is fascinating.