Introducing our bees

14 Jan

bdf3653577f012a6ee67d2aeaa2c0b66[1]My dad kept honey bees and helped me earn the Boy Scout Beekeeping merit badge when I was a kid. I bought my first packages of bees when I was 18 years old, but left them behind when I launched my life as an adult. Thanks to my dear wife and her generous uncle who gave me three swarms he caught, I finally got the opportunity to take up the hobby again about eight years ago. Today, there are 24 colonies in our back yard.

I keep Italian bees and I use standard 10-frame Langstroth equipment (except for nucs – they are in 5-frame Langstroth equipment). I’ve talked to a number of neighbors who have tried unsuccessfully to keep bees, and a few who are being more successful. So I know there are at least a few managed honey bee colonies around, but I have no idea about the feral bee population, though I assume there is one. I finally figured out how to raise queens last year, so all of my colonies are now headed by queens raised here on the homestead and mated with whatever drones are in the area.

We are fortunate to live in an area that is still relatively open. The developers are heading our way, but for now the bees have plenty of fields and forests to gather nectar and pollen from. Our homestead is on 3.8 acres that are still mostly lawn, so the bees rely almost entirely on the environment on the other side of our property line for forage.

I started out keeping bees just because it is fun. Then, I discovered there is strong demand for locally produced raw honey and my outlook changed. At first I thought I could make and sell enough honey to pay for the hobby. As I got better at managing my bees, my vision changed. Now I think I can make enough honey to pay for the hobby and also supplement our family’s budget. I adjusted my thinking about bees again when I started dreaming about food forests and organic gardening. In addition to the financial goals, I think I can integrate the bees into an overall plan to turn most of our lawn into healthy, productive, sustainable food production.