Months and months ago, in the middle of winter in a 3rd floor walk-up in Brooklyn, I made one of my first calls to a real Tennessean. His name was Ed Johnson, or Ed, The Honey Man. About an hour later I hung up the phone with a huge grin on my face. In addition to putting me at ease with the idea of taking on bees with no previous experience, in his disarming drawl he had regaled me with a story about his old girlfriend, who shares my name, and various tidbits of useful local information. It was one of those calls that made my week.
Ed recommended starting with 2 colonies. We'd have the opportunity to compare the two and try different locations if we wished, possibly resulting in two different kinds of honey. Last week I took a little road trip to Ed's to pick up the beginnings of our two colonies. I suited up for the first time and accompanied the beekeeper to find our queens. Dozens of hives stood like a mini metropolis within a grove of trees. We went through the hives he had chosen, looking through each frame until we found her. Then he pulled her frame and the surrounding 3 and added them to one of the 2 deep hive bodies that I would take home. Loaded into the beginnings of their new hive, the bees sat in the back of my truck for the hour ride home. The entrance and exit had been covered with wire mesh and when I checked on them I could see hundreds of little legs scampering around.
Once home, I went about setting up platforms for each hive with cement blocks to help protect them from animals and dampness. I placed the hives in their new locations, with the entrance facing southeast to take advantage of the morning sun (a recommendation of Ed's). Finally, I ripped off the wire mesh and released the bees into their new environment, hoping they'd really like it here and wouldn't try to fly all the way back to their old grove. They whizzed around checking everything out, some darting back into the hive, others alighting on the thistles and daisies that are everywhere here now. They didn't seem to be too aggravated, which surprised me after a day of being yanked from their hives, rattled around in a truck for an hour, and then jostled around as I carried them to their new location, but maybe at that point they were just tired and confused!
After giving them a day to settle down, I suited up to add the inner cover which had been removed to transport the bees. We lit up the smoker with pine needles and puffed around the entrance and top a few times before opening the hive. Scrapple hadn't seen our queens yet, so we went through the frames on each hive until we found her before adding the missing piece.
In a week we will check on them again. We will be watching for them to start filling up the empty frames in the hive body. When they're almost filled, we'll add the next layer or super to the hive, giving them more room to grow and space for food storage.
I'm already looking forward to our next visit. Watching the bees on their comb is so fascinating and there's something very calming about the buzz of the hive and the soft sweet smell of honey and wax that wafts through the air when it's opened. I have a feeling that this is going to be one of my favorite facets of our farm.
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