Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist. ~Anthony Burgess
I love our bees! I simply find them fascinating! What’s been going on with my newest hobby? A lot!
At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive. What does that mean? Ultimately, it means honey for us!
Our hive is two boxes high. Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner. Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full. Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer. Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs. She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption. The Piper’s honey and not the bees. Pretty simple.
Prior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment. Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives. Mites, really? Yes! It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.
To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords. I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate. This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid. Seriously? Yep. Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge. Really? True! The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites. The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle. This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive. Do the bees like it? Not at all!
The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted. We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds. Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine. We needed him to help time the process. However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.
On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves. I’m just saying.
As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others. Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received. Well it was! As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours. We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us. This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.” Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!” and he took of running down the hill. He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood. I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine. Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees. Was he? No!
After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house. I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack. Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm. I about died laughing. Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends. Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting. Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part. Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.” Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth. Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit. I guess he was wrong. I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?” Kyle only responded with a grunt.
What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting. I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest. I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee. Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.” Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying. The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason. Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.
Do we have honey yet? Alas, no. We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!
Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest. I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm. What a great day! They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees. A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting. They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers. Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.” However, everyone is really great and helpful. These group of people are a wonderful resource. Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.
Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees. Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.
As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit. Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies. Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock. Dad and I were no exception. Why not? It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment. We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey. Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn. He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.
While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take. We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung. I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit. He almost fell over with surprise. Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!
I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees. They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby. I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!