The busy bee has no time for sorrow. ~ William Blake
I’m definitely making progress on New Year’s resolution #1 – Learn about bees.
Last weekend, I took a two-day class with Tonya Wells of Queen Bri’s Honey. It’s an exhaustive class covering everything from state restrictions to hive construction, best beekeeping practices, and pests.
I’ve ordered my bees. There are basically two options – a package or a nuc (nucleus colony). I decided to order the nucs from Brian Royal at Royal Bee Supply, who operates out of Norman, OK. Brian and his partners travel to Georgia each spring to purchase Italian honey bees. Basically, a nuc is a mini-hive of related bees. I like this overall approach because a nuc is a box that contains 5 frames where the bees are already at work. I simply need to transfer these frames to my hive (easier said than done!) and the bees can continue their work with little interruption. At Brian’s recommendation (confirmed by Tonya), I order two nucs – which means I need two hives. If one nuc fails to thrive, I can pull some frames from the other nuc in an attempt to salvage my efforts.
Next, I joined a couple of local organizations.
- COBA – Central Oklahoma Beekeepers Association
- Frontier Country Beekeepers Association – which meets in Guthrie, a town close to me.
And, I joined a couple of Facebook groups:
- Beekeeping for Beginners – which is run by Tonya Wells (the lady who taught the class last weekend)
- Women in Beekeeping – why not?!
Finally, I purchased a basic book – Beekeeping for Dummies. Tonya says it really does have solid, practical information!
I’m now working on the location for my bees. I need a place that is:
- In full sun
- Level ground
- Away from constant foot traffic/noise
- Not obvious to passersby (I guess hive stealing is a serious threat!)
- Accessible to water – a simple birdbath will do
We have a lot of trees on our property. We like that! But last summer we had to remove some trees to ensure my garden got enough sun. I jokingly asked if it would be appropriate to place my hives in the middle of my garden – and Tonya said that it would be impossible to garden with 60,000 bees coming and going every day. Yikes!
Instead, I’ve been looking at this area. It’s a clearing about 150 yards behind my house, past the barn and past a tree line. Brad and I have previously discussed simply spreading wildflower seeds in this area as a filler until we decide what we really want to do … years from now. In winter, it’s difficult to see how much the surrounding areas might leaf-out and create shade, but with a 25-foot diameter – I’m hoping this will be the ideal area. No one from my family uses this space. The dogs come through every once in a while, tracking the scent of deer. I imagine the cats will find this area by the time spring rolls around. Hopefully they are smart enough to stay away from the bees. It will take a little work to level-out a space for the hives, but I think I can handle that.
So, my next steps include:
- Putting down black plastic to kill the grass. Bringing in some dirt, and spreading wildflower seed.
- Creating a level area and constructing a basic base. The base will probably consist of cinder blocks and a couple of pieces of lumber.
- Constructing two hives and securing the necessary supplies to get this hobby officially started!
- Read, read, read!
- Attend a beekeeper meeting or two.
- Receive my bees sometime in the month of May!
Beekeeping is not for the weary. It isn’t constant work – like a garden. For most of the year, you’re only checking on your bees once a month. However, bees are fragile creatures. Pests are rampant. In Oklahoma, our crazy weather will present its own set of challenges. The actual care and keeping of bees is detailed, deliberate work.
I am really eager to begin this endeavor in earnest. I’m excited to meet new people and learn new things. I know bees will enhance my gardening efforts. And then there are the thoughts about what I might do with my honey harvest – and beeswax! Ultimately, it all goes back to ‘creating my own little patch of happiness in OKC’ – and bees are fast becoming an integral part of that.
(featured image at top of blog is from Jennifer C. on Flickr)