You guys, this is gonna be “the year” for beekeeping at the W. I feel it. I feel it in my belly and my bones, and the stinging ladies whisper it to me every time I walk downhill. They dance in the sunshine and crawl between the clover blooms and beat their wings in a furious but happy Morse code message that says, “We like it here. We will stay. And if you get your hobby farming act together we will even make you some honey.”
I think that’s what they’re saying, anyway.
They’re probably Italian bees, and I barely remember my Spanish lessons from high school.
Let me introduce you to our three royal majesties who are each overseeing a completely unique colony, each acquired in a very different way too:
At the far left, nearest the pond, we have Princess Grace. She and her bees are building up their population at an incredible rate since last Spring, when my friend and fellow beekeeper Terry brought that swarm to the Lazy W. With Grace we enjoy gentleness, calm, and elegance, plus important lessons about leaving too much space in the hives, lest industry takes over and the bees one day explode with burr comb. Ahem.
Near the center of the middle field is Queen Shakira: So named because she and her ginormous family literally never stop dancing. Ever. And she can be a little spicy, but oh how beautiful! How dangerous and mesmerizing! I want to draw your attention to Shakira’s upper box, painted as a tribute to the 1980’s. Here we have Mr. T as well as a “Bee Box” instead of a beat box. Ha! Get it? There’s even more on the unseen sides. I have my talented and hilarious husband to thank for this treasure.
This was a “package” of bees I purchased at the 2016 spring conference, delivered from the vendor a couple of months later while I was visiting Jocelyn in Colorado. In my absence, my friend and mentor Maribeth and our (now mutual) friend Amber cared for this small group of stingers until I returned home. Handsome took charge of assembling and painting the wooden ware, and by the way he is the best hive artist ever.
Since then, month by month, Shakira and her fuzzy humming clan have grown like gangbusters. They have more than filled up the first deep box, overflowing out of it really, to the point that I recently added that second box you see. The concern was that the bees were so overcrowded they might swarm out on a warm spring day. I waited until winter weather had passed (specifically, until we had 24+ hours of temps above 55 degrees) then supplied them with new frames sprayed down with sugar-water (to encourage them to draw out the comb) and am continuing to feed them heavy syrup infused with drops of “Honey Bee Healthy” for their guts and immune systems. So far so good! They are still here, and they are voracious.
So, Shakira now has an upper story and deserves it. She has a bottom deep stocked with brood and honey and pollen, and I could not be happier. She and her bees seem to be draining their syrup supply faster than the other two hives. I suppose all that dancing? No pests yet, hallelujah.
Nearest the Pine Forest you see the new home of Queen Anne of the Damned, matriarch to all of her Las Diablas: This queen got her cool name because the kids in charge of naming her originally suggested “El Diablo,” the translation and literary connection for which was too good to resist. Shout out to our fellow Anne Rice fans! Her drones, of course, shall henceforth be known as Los Diablos. Love it. Ha!
This is my brand new colony, the result of my first “cut out” supervised and assisted greatly by Maribeth. An old friend of my husband’s (my friend now too) contacted me several weeks ago reporting that while cleaning out a shed, he and his brother discovered honeybees. He asked whether I might want them then sent photos. It was an established hive, tons of gorgeous comb, not a swarm, so we were in less of a rush than we might have been.
I basically could not say yes!! fast enough and scrambled together a plan. About a week later (holding our breath through some risky wintry weather) Maribeth and I performed the cut out, photographed almost the entire time by our friend’s brother Eric. LOL He was super chill!
He wore an extra bee jacket but no gloves and was right up there with us, just quietly admiring nature. I had the best afternoon! Then Maribeth and I installed the bees here at the farm, with a classic Oklahoma sunset lighting it all up. Magical.
Since that exciting afternoon, things have gone remarkably well. Queen Anne and her Diablas have acclimated to their new surroundings, happy I am sure to still have so much of their native comb. These bees came with loads and I mean loads of capped brood, dozens of baby bees already hatching, pollen in colors ranging from pale yellow to crimson, and a little honey. Maybe enough to feed on during the dry weeks ahead of nectar flow.
I am so very thankful to our friends for thinking of us and letting us wait a week to fetch the bees safely! Eric and Erin’s mom Lynn gets first dibs on Anne’s honey harvest!
The only hurdle I have so far noticed for Queen Anne is that Meh the llama, or possibly my horse Chanta, has been happy to knock the lid off in search of that sweet syrup. Which is so dumb! Because often we have looked outside to see one or more of the three bachelors running away and rodeo kicking in objection to (most likely) a sting. They were doing this to both Anne and Shakira.
Dumb, the narrator said darkly, shaking her head.
Anyway. A few strips of duct tape and two ratchet straps later, the problem seems to be solved. I am just so thankful that at each disruption, the bees were nonplussed.
Maribeth answers my questions tirelessly and offers complicated but useful guidance every time something changes. I love and appreciate her so much for this. Beekeeping is nuanced, and my learning curve has been a roller coaster for sure. I also love that she makes a point to ask about my Papa Neiberding often. I also also like that my bees tend to sting her a lot more than they sting me. That’s funny. I’m sorry but it is.
Okay, that’s it for now! I could talk about this cool stuff all day, but I don’t really know what you guys think of beekeeping, or how much you want to read about it, ha! So if you have any questions feel free to send em!
“Plumbers get wet
and beekeepers get stung.”