I AM BEEKEEPER NOW! By Shypixel
Hey kids! What did you do this summer? This is the look I get when I'm not really listening, and just waiting for my turn to talk again. So, that is super cool, guess what I did! Yup, that's right, I became a beekeeper! Did you want to hear all about my bees, and their activities, their travails, and the super sweet and sticky goo they poop out? (Bee Fact #1 - Bees do not "poop" out honey, they puke it out of a special stomach called, uncreatively, a honey stomach.) You do, gre... what? Yes, actually, I am going to keep doing that, I don't fucking care if you don't like my Bee Facts. This is Wonkette, I can swear, and I don't have to care about what you think. Now, where was I, oh yeah, ...You do? Great! Let me tell you all about it, in exhaustive detail, replete with photographs and videos! Ladies and Gentlemen, and also you regular Wonkette readers, I give you...
Home on the Prairie
This is it. It ain't much to look at, just a couple of brood frames sitting up on an old Craftsman table saw stand. It lives in the far corner of our acre here at Wonkette World HQ. It sits up on a stand because we get skunks in our yard, and it has a rock on it because we sometimes get high speed winds off of Flathead Lake. But my bees seem to like it. It is their first permanent home.
This past May, my son bought me a beehive for my hatching day. Neither of us had ever expressed more than the most fleeting fascination with beekeeping, but he decided, in spite of the fact that he was saving up to transfer to MSU this fall, that he was gonna spend several hundred dollars on equipment and livestock. Rebecca was skeptical, but li'l Shy was adamant. Usually, when you start your first hive, you send away for bees, and they come in a box, early in the spring. By late May, the only way to get bees was to buy a Nucleus Box from a commercial apiary. These bees lived in the little travelling boxes that they take from farm to farm. My bees were migrant farm workers! DEPORT! Here is what I got:
A first peek at the new hive
And here I am transferring my bees to the shyHive:
Shypixel smoking out with his bees
And here they are all moved in, with Shy Jr.
Remember how I said that there would be video? Well, there is video. Here is one of the moving in process:
Pretty cool suit, huh? It's almost exactly the same one that Next Generation Beekeeper Sir Patrick Stewart got when he started beekeeping shortly after I did. Did your humble Shypixel start a trend among celebrities? Probably. Anyhow, we added the second brood box early in June, after they had filled the lower. (Bee Fact #2: Langstroth hives, like this one, have two types of boxes, deep brood, which is where the queen lays her eggs, young are raised, and nectar is stored, along with the honey the bees will feed on through the long, dark winter; and honey supers, which is where they store additional honey they create, which we then steal.)
It turns out that Rebecca had been wrong, I love beekeeping, a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. No, not that much, dial it back, skippy. But it's pretty cool. There were two main worries, that having a giant swarm of bees in our yard would kinda suck, and that caring for the bees would be a major hassle. Well, it turns out that the a bee colony will range far and wide to gather pollen (Bee Fact #3 - Bees will fly anywhere from 1-4 miles away from the hive to forage, and a single hive can forage over 32,000 acres), so they only send the regular number of bees to poke around your garden. You really only notice them when you're within five feet or so from the front of the hive. Other than a few extra honeybees sipping out of Donna Rose's kiddie pool, you would have no idea that a swarming nest of flying venomous insects lived there at all. Most of my bees were flying up to 7-8' high to clear the shrubs, and off to parts unknown. You only really ever see them when they come home to eat and sleep at night. Kinda like teenagers.
My first worry turned out to be unfounded. What about the second? Was taking care of them a hassle? Yes, a little, but mostly no. It seems that there are many things that can go wrong with a honeybee colony. Colonies can suffer from all kinds of mites and a host of diseases with gross names like American Foulbrood, and European Foulbrood, and some that aren't even called Foulbrood. Bees have many predators, all manner of birds, dragonflies, wasps, hornets, skunks, and bears. They even fall prey to robbing by other bees, who will raid weak hives and steal their honey. The shyHive had two main problems, robber bees and skunks. Robbing was solved by reducing the size of the entrance, which lets my bees be like the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, just as naked but not all homo-erotic as in 300 (that we know of), and defend against much more powerful invaders. And the skunks? Well, I made a little something for them:
A "Welcome" mat
Mostly, my summer of beekeeping involved spending a few minutes each day, sitting by the hive, watching them come and go, learning how to recognize the different activities that I saw there, and just generally getting to know, and get known by, my bees.
Here, you can do it, too:
shyHive Front DoorA closeup of the activity at the shyHive's front door
Activity at the shyHive EntranceA short video of the daily activity at the entrance to the shyHive.
The Honey - The Sweet Sweet Sticky Honey
The sweetest thing
The real reward for raising your own hive of honeybees is, of course, that warm feeling you get in your heart, knowing that you have helped stem the catastrophic drop in the world's bee population. Hahahaha, no. That's fine and all, but I want some shyHive honey! Even if everything goes well, you have to get lucky for there to be enough honey in the first season to harvest. We got lucky:
Unstrained, raw honeycomb
Only being able to harvest one frame of honeycomb, I opted to try the old fashioned method of extracting the honey, mashing up the comb, and letting the honey drip out. No fancy centrifugal extractors and heated knives for the Shypixel, just a few bowls, a strainer, some jars, and a huge fucking mess. Oh, and also every Yellowjacket in western Montana smelled the honey, and they are still swarming the area on my deck where I scraped the comb off of the frame, days later. After a few hours of patient work, I was left with six small jars of organic, raw, unfiltered honey. The taste? Liquid gold. [Rebecca here: Also, because the beeswax/honeycomb was mashed right in, it had a slight chew to it! DELIGHTFULLY SO!]
Here it comes
Those images are scratch and sniff. Go ahead and just scratch at your screen a little, and you should be able to smell it. Maybe lean your face right up to the screen. No? You must need a browser update. We did the math, and we hope to harvest around ten times as much honey next year, maybe more if we get another hive up and running. And then you will line up for miles for a tiny little jar of Montana Wildflower honey, raw, on the comb. Right? Of course you will. And now I leave you with a few more photos and another video, remember to donate!
A Pixel and his Bees
Brood frame with queen cup visible
Donna Rose says "I love my bees!"
Now we have told you about our bees, that is Donna Rose above and a donation form below. MASH THE DONATION FORM! MASH IT LIKE BEES. No, not bees. Like something else. Also it is your OPEN THREAD!