I'm pretty excited about this post, my friends. This one has been a long time coming.
I've been lusting after the possibility of having our own honey bees for years now and as of this morning, that dream was finally realized.
Okay. Well, if we want to get technical, it wasn't full realized.
After all, there are still no actual honey bees inside the hives.
And in reality, no honey has been produced on Beatha Fonn thus far.
But still, as Stuart clicked together the last of the frames, the desire felt completed. Even though there is still much for us to learn, and much work for the bees to accomplish before we actually will harvest any honey, it's at least fun to be progressing towards a goal.
We've been members of the local Beekeepers Association now for a few months which has been very helpful in our quest to home the honey bee. Fellow members gave us much insight and advice into getting our hives set up and what equipment we should purchase (and where from). They've even hooked us up with a fantastic source for the bees that are from our very own Washington State. On top of that, they're hosting a series of beginning beekeepers classes for a few beginners (like us) in March which will be a huge asset to us novice keepers.
All that being said, let's talk equipment!
After all, if you ain't got the hives, you can't get the honey!
Beekeeping is like any other hobby – there's 1,001 different options and choices out there for equipment. What I'll present to you is simply a list of what we've acquired to get started based on our own personal research and the advice of many seasoned beekeepers.
Is it the perfect set up? Perhaps for our situation. Is it perfect for you? Maybe. Maybe not! There's plenty of freedom in this hobby so don't feel bound by what I or anyone else says. Find what works for your homestead!
Owen was a big help in figuring out what would work for our homestead, obviously:
Beekeeping 101: Getting The Right Equipment
Hive: Composed of the bottom board, hive body (where the bees will live and breed), queen excluder (to keep the queen from climbing up into the honey super), honey super (where the bees will store their extra honey), inner cover, and outer cover (upper lid). An assembled hive from Mann Lake (the company we ordered from) with the bottom board, hive body, inner cover, and upper lid is available HERE. We then added two supers onto each hive. Three boxes in total per hive. We opted for the large, 10-frame boxes.
Here's a helpful diagram for how the hive is set up:
Because of cost, we chose to purchase our hive in pieces that we would assemble. I think it was a good decision! It only took a few hours of relaxed labor on my dear husband's part (bless his heart) to get it all put together.
It started looking like this:
But then he did his thing with a few nails and a hammer:
Our boxes were made of raw pine and were purchased HERE. I'm extremely pleased with the quality of the equipment purchased through them – call me a skeptic, but I sort of expect everything these days to be made of chip board and come with a “Made in China” label. These boxes were nothing of the sort.
Frames and foundation: Each of our boxes (we ordered 3 per hive) holds ten frames and foundations. This is what the bees will build their comb on – comb that will house new baby bees and store honey! HERE'S THE ONES we opted for (except ours were unassembled).
Hive rack: Optional, but experienced keepers told us that having a rack to hold the frames while you inspect them is a real helpful tool.
Smoker: Smoke masks alarm pheromones in bees and makes it easier to handle and inspect the hive. There's a million and one ways that people have found to smoke bees, but we went for the easy route: a smoker! Find the one we purchased HERE.
Queen excluder: Another optional piece of equipment. This is a thin, metal sheet that has big enough holes for the bees to crawl through but too small for the queen to get through. This means that she's confined to the bottom box and unable to crawl up into the top honey super. We opted to include this because we're novices and as we check the hive and harvest the honey, I really don't want to be worried about squishing the queen. Bees need their queen! No queen, no honey, man. We opted for a metal one instead of plastic, like THIS ONE.
Bee brush: Traditionally, goose feathers were used to gently wipe bees off of the frames for inspection and harvest. I love the idea of this! Alas, here on Beatha Fonn, we'll be using a bee brush which have been specifically designed to avoid crushing the bees legs as they're wiped off. HERE is a good one that's available.
Bee suit: Obviously, if your'e going to work with bees, having a suit is super helpful! Ain't nobody want to get stung by bees. It's not that I'm afraid to get stung by our honey bees… it's just that I'm semi-sorta-kinda-afraid to get stung by our honey bees. So I'll be suiting up!
Paint: One of the ways that bees recognize their hive is by the color of it! Because we'll have two hives on the property, we opted to paint each hive a different color. One received a mustard-y yellow (see that yellow lid sitting on top of the green hive?) while the other was slathered in a milky avocado green. I think they turned out perky! And ready for spring!
One of the biggest deterrents to getting starting in beekeeping (at least for us) was the cost. There are a few saving graces though:
1. It's a one time investment!
2. Even if things happen and the bees die, you'll still have your completely functional equipment. Unless the equipment is burnt, lost, or run over by a tractor, it will most likely make it through many, many, many seasons.
3. Number one and number two are kinda the same, huh? Oh well. That's how it's separated in my head.
We have six pounds of bees that will be arriving in mid-April. Three pounds of bees, and one queen, for each hive.
Nope. I don't know what I'm doing.
But I'm excited to figure it out! And I'm thankful for all the super smart people who do know what they are doing who are eager and willing to share their knowledge with a beginning goob like me.
I've got the right set up – that's half the battle!
Bring it on, bees!
More posts on beekeeping: