After you have grown all of your own veggies, and after you have mastered raising chickens, your next challenge will almost certainly be beekeeping. Maybe it’s the homesteading magazines that push us toward this very zen pursuit. Maybe it’s the endless internet articles about the bees decline. Or maybe we just love honey. Whatever the reason we as homesteaders are drawn to beekeeping. We took the dive into bee keeping for pollination. An older gentleman had bees not far from us and our garden and our apple trees were always full of bees. The gentleman moved away and the next season we noticed a big decline in our production, we missed the bees. So we took our time, read all we could, and one spring we took the plunge. We built our own hives and ordered a package of bees.
We learned quickly that when the hive was open the bees responded to our mood. If we were calm so where they. If we became anxious, the bees would hum louder and we knew to calm down. This is why we call bee keeping a zen pursuit. We watched as the bees came in and out of the hive some even had big pollen pants. Bees have a hair on their back leg that they attach pollen to and it looks like they are wearing bright yellow pants. We were amazed how fast they could build comb and fill it. Bees live a very short time because of all of this hard work, so the queen must constantly lay eggs. If she gets old and slows down, the hive will replace her. Bee life is governed by pheromones and if hers grow weak, off she goes. We had to be diligent and make sure the bees had enough room to build. If they run out they will swarm. The old queen will stop laying and leave the hive with half of the bees who carry honey and pollen with them.
The bees that remain will have raised a new queen that must go out and mate before she can lay. She will mate with drones from other hives. The drones are the only boys in the hive and serve no other purpose than mating with other queens and spreading the hives genetics. The boys are all kicked out to die right before the winter. The workers bees do just that. They defend the hive, raise the larva, bring in pollen and nectar, they even clean up the hive by removing dead bees. Their jobs are determined by their age and their last job is usually collection of nectar and pollen. This ultimately wears them down as they only eat honey and have no protein to rebuild damage done to them while foraging. In return, these wonderful creatures provide us with the liquid gold that is honey. Along with the honey you will be able to harvest beautiful bees wax.
Even after we harvest the honey the bees still have work to do. We place the extracted frames out by the hive for them to clean up as they will remove any honey left behind.
Bees have been an amazing addition to our homestead. Not only have they taught us how to bee-keep, but they also inspire us to work as hard as them. Sometimes when the work is done for the day we grab a cold beverage and sit on the stone wall and watch them come in and out of the hive. Each bee arcing up and then heading straight towards the nearest nectar. They make a line in flight almost like planes headed out of an airport. So if you are looking for a new homestead challenge, look no further than the amazing bee. And whether you do it for the honey or the pollination, these girls will never disappoint you.