Monthly Archives: June 2013

Continuing to Learn.

Even though we were disappointed following the highly anticipated meeting, we’ve been doing our best to continue to try to connect with people experienced with beekeeping in our area and learn as much as we can, even though we don’t actually have bees. Yet.

BeeSuit

Trying on a beekeeping suit.

Last weekend we went to a friends home and met with an ex-beekeeper. He hauled out all his old equipment, which included tools, suit (which my husband just had to try on), extractor, and old hives – we’re talking well-used, un-salvageable hives. I almost wanted to take them home because they looked so cool!

He loaned us three books: Honey Bees – A Guide to Management, Beekeeping – The Gentle Craft, and Beekeeping – A Complete Owners Manual, as well as a large file folder full of his personal notes and brochures he’d collected over his years of beekeeping. Of course I am interested in reading the volumes of information, but I find myself quite distracted as I leaf through the papers. It only dates back to the mid-90’s, but a large percentage of the notes are typed handouts from courses or seminars. These days, I’d have all that information bookmarked in my browser. There are catalogues full of bee equipment – Bee Suits for $49.00, Little Wonder Extractor M00396 for $265.00 that can be found online today for $417.00. I’m tempted to fill out one of the order forms and mail it in… see what comes of it!

Our next step will be to buy equipment – we know what we need, we just need to get it and set it up. Then if the opportunity arises that bees become available, we can jump on it.

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First Beekeeping Meeting

The Capital Region Beekeepers Association meeting was last week, so I thought I’d report on how the evening went.

First off, I was surprised to see about 100 people there – I really didn’t expect that many people!

They had a ‘Beginners Corner’ for the first 1/2 hour that I had really been looking forward to. When we arrived and introduced ourselves (as first time attendees) at the door, we were warmly greeted, but nobody explained what would happen that evening or pointed us any particular direction. There were many chairs set up facing a front table and projector so we took a seat and waited for the evening to begin. After 7pm came and went, we began to look around and wonder when the beginner time would start, and noticed a group gathering off to the side. By the time we figured out this must in fact be the ‘beginners corner’, there were about 20 people standing, crowded around one presenter. We made our way over, but by this time the session had already begun and the crowd continued to grow to about 40 people. Those of us who found ourselves in the unfortunate position of being near the back, couldn’t see what was happening, pieces being displayed, or hear the speaker. So sadly, I really didn’t come away with any information.

Immediately following this was the regular monthly meeting which was geared towards experienced beekeepers – club business, followed by a guest speaker. The main presenter, a Bee Inspector, was scheduled for 1/2 hour to speak about Integrated Pest Management – a topic that was obviously way over our heads, but we tried our best to follow along. I must say though, it might be enough to scare newcomers off of raising honeybees if your first introduction is full of Mites, Nosema, American and European Foulbrood, Chalkbrood, Varroa…yikes. The presenter spoke for well over an hour, and by that time we had already been there for two hours and unfortunately had to leave. I think there was still to be another presenter, and then a wrap up with refreshments.

Overall, the evening was a little disappointing. There were a lot of newcomers that night, and I think it would have been very helpful to gather us together as a group and assign a volunteer to sit with us and talk about basic beekeeping 101, answer questions etc.¬†I had hoped to leave there with confidence knowing where to buy equipment, where to get local bees, how to set up etc, but instead I left a bit disappointed after all that wait. ūüė¶

There is another beekeeping club that is about a 45 minute drive from where we live, so perhaps it is one we will check out in the near future.

This weekend we are meeting with someone who was a beekeeper for many years. He has offered to share his experience and knowledge so maybe this this is something that will help us get started. We really need to learn from someone who has experience raising bees in our West Coast climate.

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The day the last dandelion died (in my yard).

Every spring and fall our lawn comes to life, and so too do the weeds. My front lawn is a breeding ground for dandelions and I furiously pluck the heads off each new bud before they have a chance to go to seed. A few years back I even hired a service to come and spray my lawn to eradicate the weeds. It was satisfying to see the last of the dandelions shrivel up and die. My quest was complete.

When we got backyard chickens I no longer felt good about spraying the whole lawn to control the weeds, so I cancelled the service. I then began selectively spraying the dandelions with eco-friendly sprays and plucking their heads off before they could go to seed. This was more labour intensive, but with my chickens in mind, I was happy to do it. Maybe I could strike a balance after all.

'Weeds' have a purpose after all.

‘Weeds’ have a purpose after all.

I was recently in my yard spraying and popping heads off¬†dandelions, when a mason bee landed on a ‘weed’ I was just about to pull. I stopped to watch it in action, furiously working to cover itself in pollen – it was fascinating. Then off to the next dandelion it went, and to the next and then the next. I looked around my yard and suddenly noticed that in addition to the dandelions, a lot of the ‘weeds’ on my lawn produce tiny little white and purple flowers, bees buzzing all around them collecting pollen and nectar.¬†At that moment, I had a revelation: these weeds actually have a purpose! I just couldn’t bring myself to pop off one more head, or spray one more leaf.

Now we are on the verge of becoming beekeepers, so naturally I want to make sure our yard is inviting and free of chemical interference. With all the information out there about declining honeybee populations, disease and crop spraying, it is only right to try to give them the best opportunity to survive as possible.

It has been a long process, accepting the weeds. Accepting that they do have a place, even if it is on my front lawn.

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Where to locate a hive?

While we are still in the planning stages, something we have been giving a lot of thought to, has been where to position the beehive on our property. We live on .22 of an acre and our bylaw only permits hives to be located to the rear of the house, and of course, a specific distance from property lines – so we are limited in terms of options. We are however, fortunate to have our property back onto a mountain, so we do not have neighbours to the rear of our home and positioning a hive in our back yard is a viable option.

One consideration though, is we have a small flock of backyard chickens that we allow to free range. Of course we don’t want the hens getting curious and wandering too close to the hive, but somehow we must find a way for them to coexist without incident.

I have included some photos of our backyard, and I am considering leveling out a space on the back slope that is currently covered in green vine, which would keep the hive off the main yard area, and somewhat away from the coop/hens. I wonder though, regardless of where we position the hive, if we should surround the hive with some form of fence to prevent the chickens from getting too close.

Do you or anyone you know, have a similar situation/setup? I would love some feedback or ideas on how best to manage bees and chickens living in such close proximity.

View of our back yard.

View of our back yard.

View of our back yard.

View of our back yard.

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Learning before I go.

I couldn’t help myself. I don’t even¬†own¬†bees yet and I just had to get the latest edition of Bee Culture Magazine. I’m not known to have a lot of patience, so waiting to go to our first ever meeting (9 more days, but who is counting?) with the local beekeepers association is difficult. In the meantime I of course want to fill my time learning as much as I can, and this magazine fit the bill perfectly.

Learning all I can before we get bees, and Bee Culture Magazine is full of great information.

Bee Culture Magazine.

It seems most new beekeepers have Mentors, and the more I read, the more I understand it is absolutely necessary to have someone who knows what they are doing, help you with everything from setting up, to diagnosing problems. I’m sure we’ll find a mentor in our area and I look forward to working with them to get our hive up and running.

Ultimately I want to do right by these little guys!

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It’s not too late

I have just found out it is NOT too late to start beekeeping this year. This is great news, as I had thought all bees are now out doing their busy work, and to get some would be disrupting the natural flow of things. Not so apparently, thanks to Swarms – a term I am just now beginning to understand.

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