Sunday, March 6, 2011


For about a year, I've been thinking about getting some bees. I'm fascinated by them, and their role in agriculture. We seem to have a lot of wild (feral) bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, mason/orchard bees, and lots of different species of tiny bees that I know nothing about other than they're bees.

Last March we went on a vacation to Kauai and we met a beekeeper who let us tour his apiary and processing set up. At that point, I knew I had to have some bees.

I am planning to set up two hives and with the vineyard, the fruit trees we've planted, lots of clover in the pasture, and the huge variety of wildflowers we have around our place, I hope these two little hives will produce lots of honey.

One thing the long Iowa winter allows is a lot of down time to plan and plot next year's gardens and projects. This year it allowed me time to take a beekeeping class and this past Thursday was the final class. There were about 25 people in the bee class, and almost all of them are planning on starting hives this spring. It's been fun to take this class and learn how it's all done. I'd read several books before taking the class so I was already pretty well prepared for what was involved but it was nice to be able to actually ask someone the questions I had, after reading several how-to guides.

At this point, I'm very excited. I will have to drive about an hour and a half to pick up the bees from the guy I bought them from, and then make the same trip home with them in the car. LOL. After my last Bee Class this past Thursday, I picked up all of the equipment I had ordered the previous week. The instructor had driven to Nebraska to pick up his large order and several orders for people in the class, which saved us all the shipping costs (my three boxes weighed well over 100 lbs in total). The bees will be ready to be picked up the third week of April so I have just over a month to get everything built and painted, and set up in the location of their permanent home. This needs to get done sooner rather than later because things in the vineyard are also going to get very busy by the end of March.

Greg worked out an assembly line in the garage and while I glued the pieces and fit the hive boxes together, he put the nails in and made sure the boxes were square. We have 12 out of the 15 boxes done now (we ran out of nails) and the next step is priming and painting them. Most people paint their hives white because it is reflective and helps prevent the hives from getting too hot in the summer. I've chosen a pale yellow that should accomplish almost the same thing, while making them just a little different than everyone else's. Once the painting is done, we'll assemble the frames where the bees actually build out the comb and store the larvae, pollen and honey. There are ten frames per hive box. Each hive also needs a base and an inner and outer cover. I have them and they need to be assembled as well. If things go well with these initial two hives, I'll expand next year.

I still have a few things to buy, including my bee suit and veil, as well as some leather gloves and a couple of tools that are used while working with the bees. I already have the smoker, although I haven't messed around with it yet.

Oh, and the instructor suggested a big bottle of liquid Benadryl, just in case...


  1. Deb, I am facinated by your and Greg's progress. I wish I lived closer so we could assist and be a part of your adventure.

  2. John, I'm very excited about everything we're doing. We're still pruning the vines and getting them ready for spring growth. Lots of work, but the weather has been incredible the last several days. It was 66 and sunny today and I spent about three hours out there pruning and training the Traminette vines. We're about half way done with that task, then on to spraying for fungal diseases. The sheep are ready to be moved out there and put to work, and based on the shape of their winter pasture, it can't happen soon enough.