Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bee Keepin' Busy

 This little old house has been buzzing with excitement since Saturday almost two weeks ago when we returned from our trip to the Historic Homes Workshop in Tampa to find this on our porch:


A box of bees! Our 2lb box of Carniolan Bees had finally arrived! There is something crazy exciting about a meshed box filled to the brim with buzzing bees. I don't know about you but I never really have the opportunity to get that close to almost 10,000 fuzzy insects so needless to say we were thrilled. Following Charles' instruction (he's the guy who sold them to us) we sprayed them periodically with sugar water and fed them bits of pollen patty while we readied the hive for its new tenants. Since these bees have to start from scratch in their new home and don't have any stores, we supplied them with a feeder with sugar syrup and pollen patty inside the hive so they wouldn't starve ...or, you know, up and leave looking for greener shores.

Little Man spent a lot of time with his nose -very- close to the mesh marveling at the little creatures. We had to remind him they were mostly girls when he started naming them Bob 1, Bob 2, Bob 3, and so on. Silly monkey! He couldn't wait to don his beekeeper jacket but since we were so busy getting everything ready and the bees into the hive, we forgot to take pictures.

This picture shows Little Man proudly showing off his beekeeper jacket (and Mio photobombing). It's a size medium so he has time to grow into it and the one or other guest can wear it if they want to sneak a peek.

Here's our topbar hive in situ: 17ft in the air on a small stair case landing with free airspace across the yard. This location is beautifully out of the way, and without taking a closer look the hive looks like a harmless, oversized window box. It's been a week and half since the bees' arrival and we are amazed at how little you notice them. Occasionally we see a bee in the backyard, checking out the spiderwort and spanish needles growing wild where I haven't weeded yet but there is no increased traffic at all.

From their hive, they just go up and away to forage, just like we'd hoped they would. Unless you look up directly at the hive, you won't know they are there. I love it when a plan works out!

We also chose Carniolan Bees for that purpose since they are known as the gentlest of bee breeds hoping to increase our chances of remaining good neighbors. Again, so far they are very laid back and happy to ignore our bumbling beginner beekeeper struggles and clumsy workings.

If I sit on my nightstand and peek out the window I can watch the entrance to the hive. Over the past week and a half we have learned that

  • Our bees 'sleep in' - before 8:30am you are hard-pressed to see a bee anywhere outside the hive, and I have checked on the feeder and moved some bars around without any protection at all since the girls were still happily snoozing in their cozy, warm cluster.
  •  Watching bees is hypnotic and relaxing - It's hard to explain but we can all sit for hours by the window watching the bees go in and out, sometimes carrying a bright load of yellow or orange pollen in their pollen baskets. Really! I have spent 45 minutes doing nothing but observing their fuzzy butts going about their business. This is also my excuse for the lack of cool projects, no kidding.
  • Bees are toasty warm! We noticed that for the first time when they were still in their box. Holding your flat hand against the mesh you could feel the heat the little insect bodies radiate. It was almost hot. Even now that they are in their hive, I can locate the cluster easily by just sliding a hand along the hive body. The spot where they are is warm to the touch compared to the rest of the hive.
This weekend we will try to do a first thorough inspection. Last week the weather was simply too rotten to do so but so far the weather outlook looks promising. Just by tentatively lifting the bars a fraction of an inch (more like millimeters) I know the last  four bars are heavy so I'm pretty sure they've been busy drawing comb. And hopefully we won't forget to snap a few pictures to share with you!


  1. Exciting! What do your neighbors think of this? So, are the bees going to stay there as their permanent home? Imagine naming them all? LOL
    How are you going to take care of them in the winter? Would you have to go out and shovel the snow off the roof? It looks unstable... From my view anyways. I just think a wind could blow it off the railing! But you probably have it secured so tight, it ain't going to move nowhere!

  2. The neighbors that know are baffled that they haven't noticed them at all and are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be a honey tasting at some point :)
    If we ever have winds that are able to knock the hive down, we have more to worry about than just a couple of thousand bees *grins* it's bolted with several carriage bolts to the railing and not going anywhere. NE Florida has very mild winters; snow shoveling isn't on the agenda :)