Feb 142011

Schuyler harvests some honey from a Top Bar hive

One my goals for 2011 is to get into beekeeping. I’m a bit nervous about this. On the other hand, during my three seasons of veggie gardening I’ve become very comfortable with bees, working closely with them and among them, planting flowers to attract them to the garden, studying their behavior and enjoying their industriousness. They are inspiring, really, like squadrons of WOOFERS working the blossoms, single minded in their pursuit of pollen. I haven’t figured out where they live. Perhaps some of them come from Dorothy’s hive across the road. Possibly they live in nearby trees. But I want to provide them a home closer to the garden and eventually ask them to share a bit of honey. It seems fair. I’m more or less providing the pollen.

On my list of things to do was, “Attend a meeting of the Mt Baker Beekeepers,” which I did last Wednesday. I went to the wrong location at first, not having checked their website recently. But a quick check of the internet via my useful smart phone caused me to turn the car around and race to the Moose Club near the airport. I managed to get there almost on time. I expected a small group, maybe five or six people, but was surprised to walk into the large Moose meeting room in the back of the clubhouse to find nearly forty people assembled to talk about bees. There was a good talk on the “hardware” one needs to get started. The fellow on my right was very helpful in whispering footnotes to the talk (he smoked me immediately as a wanna beekeeper). The guy on my left was from Gooseberry Point. There were obviously many knowledgeable bee people in the room as well as newbies like myself.

We first timers were asked to introduce ourselves. There was one fellow who wandered in late with a roast beef sandwich on a plate who in his introduction said he was running sixteen hives and was looking for places to put them. I was going to find out more about that as it seems an easy way to get bees (let someone else do it) but he ate his sandwich and left early. I noticed he was wearing what looked like pajamas underneath his trousers. Odd, I thought. Maybe some kind of beekeeper costume that I must get.

The Mt. Baker group is a good source of information on local beekeeping. A good website. The Mt. Baker group is into conventional beekeeping equipment, the stacked(Langstroth) hives that we are used to seeing. Based on the inspiration of my nephew and the fact that he is building me a hive and says he is going to bring me a swarm of bees, I’m going to start with a top bar hive. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different types of hives. The disadvantage of the Top Bar hive is less honey. Also, it is comb honey which makes it a bit harder to process. But, you don’t need an extractor and you get wax as a bonus. In addition, the hives are lighter and easier to care for.

There is, of course, endless information on bees on the web. I think these posts from our garden blog are interesting. Here’s one and another . This site shows you how to build a top bar hive which doesn’t look too hard.

This fellow in Portland builds and sells top barre and Warre hives and beekeeping equipment.

In summary, honey: good. Pollination: good. Bee stings: not all that bad.


  6 Responses to “Bees”

  1. if you get stung you can just find some plantain (grows as a weed in lawns, on roadsides, etc), chew it up and stick it on the sting. it makes a really noticeable difference in the pain. this also works for stopping itching in mosquito bites.

  2. While in Hawaii we learned that chewing some tobacco to moisten it and using it as a poultice will take the sting out of a centipede bite. Wonder if that will work for bees as well.

  3. Don’t ignore those wonderful loners: Mason bees. Here is a good site about them. No honey but loads of pollination.

  4. As you know, Mason is my miidle name. I won’t forget them. Drilling holes for them in our old snags.

  5. Yeah for bees! Mason bees are the early pollinators, they get busy before the honeybee, and can head out at 50 degrees, though 55 is ideal. Also,on the holes, 5/16 of inch is the ideal size for an abundance of females. The Gardeners Network will have a short presentation on Mason Bees in March, let’s have one on the honeybee too.

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