The Day I Fell in Love With Bees

I am a cyclist. Well, I don’t cycle on the roads as much as I used to; now I ride on my trainer in the garage most days, but I used to cycle on the road quite a bit. What does this have to do with beginning beekeeping? My story will tell you:

One day I was riding near an open field that had dozens of bee boxes on it. Apparently, the bees were also getting out for the day and were making their way across the road toward the orange and grapefruit groves in the distance. I rode straight into thousands and thousands of bees crossing the road as I cycled through.

Since I didn’t have enough time to stop before I was in the midst of them, so instead, I slowed down, and gently kept riding, all the while talking to them and assuring them that I wasn’t going to hurt them.

To my amazement, I saw many stop and hover near my right shoulder just waiting for me to pass. This happened over and over again as I rode through the swarm? pack? I’m not sure what you call them when they’re in flight.

That day, I understood just how intelligent and amazing bees are. Before this, though, bees and I always had an understanding. In my garden I’d love to see them (pollination, thank you!) and I never was afraid that they’d sting me, and I never, ever swatted at them. Why would I? I wanted them there.

Honey, Will You Buy Me Some Bee Boxes for My Birthday?

For my birthday in May, my husband got me set up with two bee boxes and a book about beginning beekeeping, along with a class given by friends of ours at a local apiary. Since summers in Florida are when there isn’t much bee activity, we had to wait until now to get our nucs. Hooray for Florida weather in the fall and winter!

Today we picked up our nucs and transferred them to our boxes. Again, I was amazed at how intelligent these creatures are. I wore my beekeeping jacket, light-colored jeans tucked into socks, boots and gloves.
beginning beekeeping

Protective Gear

I’m not a big fan of this gear in our hot Florida weather, but I figured, “better safe than sorry,” especially because I’m new at this beekeeping business. I do have the homeopathic medicine Apis on hand, in case I get stung, but I took this extra precaution.

I have a friend who made her own “hat” out of netting and elastic sewn on to her cowboy hat and her own “jacket” by sewing two men’s shirts together and closing up the button holes. I think I’m going to try to do this, though, my family can tell you: I’m not seamstress. I do, however, wish for a better-fitting suit, and a hat that doesn’t fall in my face whenever I bend over!

My daughters took notes during our mini beginning beekeeping tutorial when we went to pick up the nucs, and they stood back and took pictures and videos as I was transferring the frames. I had my smoker ready, but it really didn’t smoke as well as it should have, and so I pretty much gave up on that.

Wouldn’t you know it, but after all the bees were safely in their boxes, it started smoking properly!

beginning beekeeping

Transferring Bees

I was warned that I might lose some bees in the transfer, and so I was very careful about where I put my gloved fingers when loosening up the frames and adjusting them in the boxes. Some bees were left in the boxes that we transported them in, so I had to tap them out. The stubborn ones who didn’t want to leave their temporary home needed to be brushed out with my hand.

All in all, I lost only 4 bees out of about 30, 000. I think they got injured while I was brushing them out of the box.

The only thing I am missing is the wooden piece which closes off the entrance except for a small 1-inch opening. I’ll pick these up Monday. In the meantime, I sealed the opening with a dish towel.

beginning beekeeping

My daughter took this picture through the ventilation holes in the transport box. They were buzzing happily, even while riding home in our hot vehicle. It was about 90 degrees earlier this afternoon, and we wanted to get them home and out of that hot box as quickly as possible.

Bee Behavior

As a beginning beekeeeper, I found watching them settle fascinating. It didn’t take them long to acclimate to their new environment. None of the got angry or aggressive during transfer, and I took the beekeeping jacket off as soon as I had all the frames transferred.

After that I just sat on my little stool and observed. The guard bees quickly took over as watchers. This is very cool! I even saw a drone try to get inside. At first I thought it was the queen, but a quick photo and text to my friend confirmed that it was a drone. I assume he got in because I didn’t see him hanging around the door after that. Drones are make bees who can’t sting, and who don’t work. Their only job is to mate.

beginning beekeeping

After a couple of hours of watching them, I had a few feel comfortable enough with me to land on me. One landed on my hand and gently crawled around on it, the other landed on my ankle just inside my boot which scared me a little – I didn’t want to crush her! – and the other landed here on my leg.

I went back up at sunset to check on them and all of them were inside their boxes except for one lone bee who was hanging out on the outside of the feeder. I’m excited to check on them again in the morning!

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