In May of this year, we made the commitment to raise honey bees in our yard. This meant preparing our apiary. We were very grateful to have a mentor guide us through this process as this is a new experience for the both of us.
The first thing we did was pick a spot in our yard where we felt the apiary would be far enough away from people, close enough to be easily accessible for weekly check-ups and maintenance, and be in an area that received a lot of sunlight. This was our front yard.
Next, we purchased, installed and painted a picket fence because not only did we want this area to have a little country charm, but also be a great visual to alert anyone walking through the area that something was happening here.
We then built a decorative stone base, outlined the sides and back with field stone, and seeded the front area with wildflower mixed seeds. We kept the fence open in the front in case we needed to get out of the area quickly!
Last but not least, we purchased and painted a pedestrian bridge to bring us to and from the bees through what will become our wildflower garden.
We will have a few more enhancements to this area to show you within the coming weeks.
Bees and Boxes 101
Not bad for our first apiary, huh?
Pictured above are our two 10 frame bee boxes which will each house two Nucs (nucleus’ of smaller colonies that have been split from larger ones). Each nuc colony arrives with one Queen, a host of male drones and female worker bees.
The distinct bee colonies live and work in their own nucs. The bottom box of each beehive is the brood box where the Queen lays her baby bees (brood). The top boxes are called supers which will be our honey boxes and will also contain pollen and nectar collected by the worker bees which they will turn into honey.
The role of the Queen is to lay all the eggs in the hive as she is the only fertile female dwelling in the colony. She houses herself in the bottom box called the brood (baby bee) box where she remains most of her life laying eggs. During the spring months, she can lay well over 1,000 eggs per day quickly multiplying the number of bees in a hive. Beekeepers often use a Queen excluder to prevent her from leaving the brood box and reaching the top boxes.
The only role of the male drone is solely to fertilize the Queen, and after this is done, the drone immediately dies. If a drone hasn’t mated, it is allowed to hang around the hive being taken care of by the worker bees. Why? Because the drones are on standby in the event a new Queen arrives on the scene. If this doesn’t occur, after summer is over, the females usually drive the drones out as food needs to be rationed. *Interesting fact: drones do not sting.
The worker bees have many roles. Worker bees are female but don’t have the capacity to reproduce. Instead they are the well oiled machine that works together to control what’s happening inside the hive. Since they collect pollen and nectar, which they turn into honey, they feed the Queen, the drones and the larvae. They also build the wax combs you see in hives.
Georgian Bees Arrive
So who would think that a colony of bees would arrive from Georgia in an air-conditioned truck? Not us, but that’s how they came to us. John says you can tell they’re from Georgia because of their accents.
Our mentor, Brett, met us at our house and helped us transfer the “new townees” from their plastic box to our bee boxes. He commented that the bees had insulated themselves from the road vibrations on their trip up to Wisconsin by creating wax they extended from their frames to the inside of their box. Pretty smart!
Pictures above show the transport boxes that transported the colonies as well as bee activity on the frames.
Once each box has been filled with 8 screens and one feeder box to start, the box is closed.
We will come back in a week to check on the activity inside the hive as well as do a little maintenance.