The Trials and Tribulations of Beekeeping

This weekend Wheat was at his brother’s bachelor party, so I did some bachelorette beekeeping.

Beekeeping Attire | Oysters & Pearls

I like to call my yellow pants I wear beekeeping my “pollen pants.”  The bees wear them, why shouldn’t I?  ;)

It’s been about 3 weeks since I had checked either of our hives, so I wasn’t sure what I would find.  I did know that I needed to be prepared, because our hive in Bainbridge has been acting pretty defensive and fierce.  Wheat got stung on the face a week or so ago while just changing the jar of sugar water on top of the hive.  So I decked myself out more than usual.  Hence the tall rubber boots and a large thick mock turtleneck from Walmart, in addition to my gloves and veil.  It was a good thing I did, too.  I literally had to pull bees out of my gloves where they were trying to sting me.  And there were lots of “come at me, bro!” events.  They are so feisty!

Despite their bad behavior, the hive in Bainbridge is doing GREAT.  Queen Latifah has been busy laying lots of eggs, and the ladies have been busy making lots of honey!

Marked Queen Bee | Oysters & Pearls

I actually ended up ordering a shallow box and shallow, unwired frames for Queen L and her ladies.  I want to try to get them to fill it out so I can do some honey with the honey comb still inside.  Since the frames are shallow – about 4 inches wide – the bees can fill it out with honeycomb without it being supported by wires or plastic, so you can simply cut the comb (and the honey) out when you want to harvest it.  Anyway, so I had great success Saturday morning!

Then I went to visit my Bristol hive.  These bees are the sweet bees.  I could check them without gloves and a veil and barefooted if I wanted.  They are so docile.

Honey Bees and Pollen | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees and Pollen Colors | Oysters & Pearls

I don’t think I shared this on the blog, but a month or so ago I added a deep box to the brood box in Bristol in attempts to get some tupelo honey.  Three weeks ago, I checked the bees again and they had swarmed.  It was so sad and disappointing!  But we still had a good bit of bees left, but possibly no queen – we couldn’t find her anyway.  Upon recommendation from an experienced beekeeper, I waited to see if a virgin queen would mate and start laying eggs.  The great news is that she did!  I couldn’t ever find her yesterday, but I sure found evidence she had been getting busy!  You can see the larvae in the pictures below in various stages of development.  Once they get big enough, the bees cap them off (the lumpy capped off bits of comb below) and the bees hatch out of them.

Honey Bee Brood and Larvae | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bee Brood and Larvae | Oysters & Pearls

Excuse the iPhone quality photos – beekeeping solo is hard enough without trying to take pictures with my real camera, too!

So I was feeling really good about my bees up until this point.  Stoked, actually.  I was even pretty excited to see the bees had filled out 3 or 4 frames in the top box with sweet, beautiful tupelo honey.

Tupelo Honey | Oysters & Pearls Tupelo Honey | Oysters & Pearls

But that excitement was short-lived.  After holding the frames up to examine them for a few minutes… THESE CREEPY CRAWLIES STARTED EMERGING OUT OF NOWHERE!  Fair warning: this is pretty disgusting and may induce nightmares.

IMG_4883

After a mild panic attack and multiple shouted curse words, I removed the top box completely and called my bee sensai.  Then I called my parents’ neighbor, Tommy, who owns The Bee House.  He met me up at the store for a couple hive beetle traps and some sage advice.  He recommended that I hose the frames off to remove the larvae, the beetles, and the slime the larvae leave behind (I know, so grodie) and the bees could clean the rest of it right up.  So I spent the rest of the afternoon hosing frames off and gagging.

And thus, I had my first major lesson learned from beekeeping: don’t give the bees more space than they can handle.  When they swarmed, I should have taken off the top box and just let the colony rebuild.  Instead, I greedily wanted tupelo honey.  Lesson. Learned.

I also learned from Tommy and my friend Andrew (who owns Deep South Honey – more on that later)  that this year’s tupelo harvest has been the worst in many, many years.  Between a late and paltry bloom and the heavy rains flooding most of the bee yards, it’s not been a good year for tupelo.  So guard those bottles of tupelo tightly, y’all!  Tommy told me that Georgia and Alabama are where it’s at for the bees right now,  which explains why Queen Latifah and her Bainbridge ladies are doing so well right now I suppose!

Other weekend activities included:

the street dance with SoWeGa Trainwreck on the Square downtown,

Street Dance, Bainbridge, Georgia | Oysters & Pearls

and some light reading.

Robbing Bees, A Great Book about Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Yep, I still rock the crocs around the house.  They are heinous and oh so comfortable and I don’t care what you say as long as I don’t wear them out of the house.

I highly recommend Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey–The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World.  It’s about a girl from Connecticut who apprenticed with Donald Smiley.  Donald Smiley owns Smiley Apiaries, and is one of the largest beekeepers and tupelo honey producers in the state in nearby Wewahitchka (Wewa), Florida.  This book is a must-read for anyone who loves the Panhandle of Florida, keeps bees, or is just interested in the culture of beekeeping.

They’re back!!!!

Baby Georgia Warhorse Grasshopper | Oysters & Pearls

It’s Georgia Warhorse season again.  If memory serves me correctly, you owe me approximately fifty cents, Daddy-o!

I admire this truck and this farm every time I go to Bristol from Bainbridge.

Decatur County, Georgia Chicken Farm  | Oysters & Pearls

 I just adore it and I’m dying to have an old truck.  Anyone know if the turquoise one by the Donut Shop in Bainbridge is available??? ;)  But seriously.

I finally made it back to Bainbridge late Saturday afternoon when my friend Mary called and asked me over to have a drink on the front porch.

Downtown Bainbridge, Georgia Front Porch Sitting | Oysters & Pearls

So we had a couple cocktails, ate cold fried chicken and pimiento cheese, and watched the world go by as we caught up.  I am well aware that that statement could not be any more stereotypically Southern, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Sunday morning I had my coffee along with a couple of ripe strawberries from the garden.

Strawberry Peeking Out in the Garden | Oysters & Pearls

Then had a Sunday Funday afternoon.  I rode my bike downtown, which was fun in and of itself, and then had a play day with my friend Jessica Grace and our new friends Randy and Carol, who showed us how to use a plasma cutter.

Bicycle Riding | Oysters & Pearls

Teaching Us How To Use A Plasma Cutter | Oysters & Pearls

The bee is mine.  Obvi.

Bee Drawing with Soap Stone on Sheet Metal | Oysters & Pearls Using a Plasma Cutter to Cut Sheet Metal | Oysters & Pearls Finished Yard Art | Oysters & Pearls

This weekend was simple but jam-packed.  Life is good.

Until Next Time

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4 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of Beekeeping

  1. Jim McClellan

    Great post and pictures. Sorry for your bee loss — and that beetle experience does look pretty gross. Kudos for not bailing out on the whole venture at that point. I guess you can consider it a rite of passage.

    Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Yes, I think that’s exactly it. Beekeeping definitely comes with it’s share of learning experiences! At least the successes and failures have basically cancelled themselves out at this point…

      Reply

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