After much preparation and anticipation, a new colony of Italian honeybees has arrived at the farm. We spent the afternoon installing them into their new hive - more on this in a moment, but first, a bit about how all of this came to be...
In the midst of this years long and cold winter, we cooked up a plan with our city-dwelling
friend Mark to go into beekeeping together. Mark has a charming apartment in Brooklyn, with enough space on his fire escape for handful of herb and vegetable plants, but not quite enough room for a full fledged beehive. Furthermore, New York had a ban on keeping bees at the time, (a ban which has since been lifted). On the other hand, we had plenty of space on the farm and have had bees here in the past. And, bees play an important role by helping to fully pollinate
much of what grows here on the farm. All in all, it seemed like a good idea for everyone.
Because there are so few honeybees left in the wild, the best way to start a new colony is to buy young bees from a local beekeeper. We made arrangements with one to start a colony for us and agreed to come pick it up in the middle of May. So, it came as a bit of shock when we got a call earlier this week telling us that because of the unusually high pollen levels, the bees were already big enough to be picked up! With no time to spare, we spent the rest of that day building the wooden bee hive.
Painting the bottom board
Painting the hive body
A completed frame
The hive is finished and ready for bees
Because we are new beekeepers, we opted to start our colony by buying a 'nuc' - five frames from an existing hive, filled with bees and a queen that already know each other. This is the best way to start a new colony, because the bees have been living on the frames for a few weeks and so have started producing honey, pollen, eggs and larva.
Once we picked up the nuc, (it comes in a brown box which buzzes and vibrates from the ten thousand bees inside), our first task as beekeepers was to move the colony from the nuc box into the new hive by slowly moving each frame from one to the other. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having 10,000 bees flying around you!
All geared up to go work with the bees
We began by removing a frame from the nuc box
There are thousands of bees on each frame so we had to move them very slowly
Each frame is then gently put into the new hive body
Somehow we found the queen - she's been marked with a blue dot
Once all of the bees are in their new home, we put on the roof and let them settle in.