It’s all the buzz around here


Saturday afternoon I arrived at this welcoming place, above, Beekind in Sebastapol, to pick up the bees. I have had this date on the calendar for months now. Beekeeping is something I’ve wanted to do for years now but between city ordinances (which have since been relaxed), and having a baby and knowing we were going to move, I had to wait. Now that we are on this property and I have a few beekeeping friends I knew this was as good a time as any. Last August I picked up a copy of Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees to give me a good introduction into what I was getting into.

(the boys were glued to the two bee boxes!)

When we first moved in our generous neighbor gave us an incredible basket of edible goodies and one of them was a canning jar full of honey. When we finally met in person we asked her if she kept bees and she casually replied that she caught a wild swarm in her backyard and this was their honey. Holy Cow! Incredible! Turns out she wanted to learn a little more and start a traditional hive this year too, so together we ventured out to Beekind a few weeks ago to take on of their hands on hive installation and inspection classes. Taking that class, for me, was invaluable. And knowing that there was someone over the fence with whom I could shout out to for moral bee support is also invaluable.

Now, despite that I’ve read a book and taken a class, I am still a bumbling newbie in all of this, so when it came time to install the packages all sorts of little stumbling blocks came up such as. ‘Oh wait, the boxes are nailed together, what do we do about that?’ After finding that a hammer wasn’t going to pull out those tack strips easily we resort to a saw.

A lot of deliberation, debating and worry went into the location of the hives. We finally decided upon a part of the yard that gets little foot traffic, has a high hedge to protect from the wind and is slightly overhung by a tree to give a little afternoon shade.

What’s been great about the process is seeing how excited the boys are about it all. Our youngest son is well known to be a bee petter and the first question he had for the lady when we picked up the bees was, ‘can I hold one?’ But our oldest, as you can see above, wants to be right into it, picking things up, moving things around. He told me the other day, ‘Let’s go check on them, I just can’t resist the bees!’ I’m looking forward to them learning along with me.

Installing the bees was a little heart racing but I didn’t get stung and all in all, it went smoothly. Inside those larger boxes of bees is a small box that the queen comes in. You can see me above brushing bees off of her with some grass. There is a cork in that box that you take out and replace with a mini-marshmallow. You then rubberband her to a frame and the workers eat their way into her.

At the end of the day I got them all buttoned up and was quite proud and excited about our new venture. Yesterday I had to go back in and take out the bee boxes and reduce the hive down to one box (I had to start with two boxes since I’m using shallows), which went mostly easily, except when I came back a little later and found that one hive was swarming the removed bee package box…apparently the queen was attached to that. Sigh. So back the package box went into the hive. Then I also found that the ants (I really do hate ants!)  had broken through my cinammon border and had infested the syrup of the other hive. Sigh. So more cinammon was applied and today I need to create little oil moat around the bases.

The good news is that when I went into the hives to rearrange things yesterday I saw that one hive was already drawing out it’s honeycomb and filling it with the syrup, so with any luck and if I can keep the queen in the hives, we’ll have honey this summer!


Filed under beekeeping

24 responses to “It’s all the buzz around here

  1. Ohhhh you got BEES! Right on! I’m getting a NUC in a couple of weeks (ordered it months ago when things were better and now it’s like a gift from me to me!) and am so pleased that you’re giving beekeeping a whirl, too! You’re one of my go-to sources for product recipes and I can’t wait to see what you make with the hive products 😀

  2. Congratulations on getting your bees! You’ve joined a select group of folks who honor nature and respect her methods (i.e., the bees). However, I think it’s a little hasty for you to start the bees now and expect to have honey this summer. Although it is possible, you risk leaving the bees without enough honey to sustain them through the coming winter. Nature’s honey flow is not year-round, and there will be little for them to collect during the summer months unless you continue feeding them sugar water well into the fall. Just saying … we skipped collection the first year and our hives were bigger and strong the second year because of it, while other beekeepers lost hives. Our hives split more than double in the second year, and tons of honey! Best of luck with yours!

    • asonomagarden

      Thanks for the tip on not taking honey the first year Michelle. I’ll take all the tips I can get at this point!

      • Thank you. I enjoy your blog, and I look forward to following your posts about the bees. My biggest advice, after you’ve read everything, and heard others give their advice (including me) … join a beekeeper’s group, and (most of all) let the bees teach you what they need and what they are doing. Follow their lead!

      • Jennifer

        I love your website, and now I really love it cause I am a newby beekeeper as well. ‘Willy’ is the bee guru in our area, he said the same thing about not harvesting any honey this season, the bees will need it to survive the winter. Then next years season when the hive has doubled in size, you can harvest some of the honey leaving some behind for the bees to eat thru another winter, and so on.

  3. Deanna

    So exciting!!!! Keep us posted!

  4. Christine

    How exciting for you and your family! Looking forward to reading all about your hive adventures.

  5. I was all excited to attend the Beekind classes and order bees for this Spring for our 4 acre property in Petaluma, but for the reasons you describe above (new baby included) and a full host of other “first year in the country projects” (chickens, sheep, pigs, garden) ultimately decided to wait until next Spring. I’m glad you’re taking it on so we can watch the progress of an enthusiastic beginner! We’ve been following the blog and loving everything you’re getting into (we’ve even tried going “no poo”).Keep it up!

    Dave and Ann

  6. I’m looking forward to hearing about your bees. I have heard about the difficulty bee keepers are having with their hives. I will keep your hive in my prayers. I have a heart for bees. (but not for ants.)

  7. Gregory

    Re: ants
    Sorry to hear that cinnamon was a Maginot Line.
    We use a product called Tanglefoot to keep them out of our citrus trees. It’s a sticky glue-like substance which you apply to a band of tape around the object you are protecting. The ants never get across.
    It needs to be replenished every few months after it gets covered in enough dust, etc as to lose stickiness.

  8. I totally had the same weekend! I picked up my bees from Beekind on Saturday, too — and spent Sunday dealing with ants in the sugar water and battling them with cinnamon. Plus orange peels now, and some mint. I also highly recommend the Sonoma Beekeepers Association– they have monthly meetings (in Rohnert Park) that are super, super informative. Congrats on your bees!

  9. JeanetteB

    Congrats on your bees! I am in Oregon and I got my bees a week ago – they are doing well and it is so exciting to watch them. I have an in-hive frame feeder and the ants were wanting to go into the hive but the bees kept them from entering. As I watched none of the ants made it through the entrance. Yay for the bees! Love your blog and hope your hive does well.

  10. chrisinsocal

    I love reading your blog when I have the time…and your pictures are so beautiful! I’ve learned so many things from you. There is a question I have been wondering about: Why did you want to go without washing your hair (with water)? And, have you finally washed it?

  11. chrisinsocal

    I love reading your blog and I’ve learned so many things from it!
    I do have a question that has been in my mind for awhile: Why did you want to stop washing your hair (with water) and are you still doing it?

  12. Mil

    So excited you got your bees, and at Beekind too. I’ve been up there and they are nice people. Also, a friend just picked up her bees last weekend there too.
    Anyway, since you live up there, you must know about Serge Labesque. When I was taking his classes (Yes, we drove up from Berkeley each week for his classes. It was worth it!), someone asked him about ants. He kept saying, “the ants are not the problem”. He felt if the hive was strong enough, they could deal with the ants. Maybe if you ever see him, you can ask him to elaborate.
    I have a bee blog friend whose little girl pets bees! He says she hasn’t gotten stung and it seems the bee pushes up against her finger to be pet more. Such is the innocence of children.
    Anyway, glad you joined the world of the beek. Did you attend the Bee Symposium last month?

    Best wishes,

    • asonomagarden

      Thanks so much Mil for Serge’s ant advice. I have noticed that they’ve been dwindling in numbers so the bees must be winning this battle. I have heard of Serge and seen his classes, but haven’t been able to take one yet. No I didn’t go to the Bee Symposium either…but I wish I had!

  13. Pingback: Why I Keep Bees! | A HEALTHY LIFE

  14. Jennifer

    Now that you have your own bees, You Will Love This! I make my own lotion from your lotion recipe. Now that I have my own bees, when I make a batch of lotion, I add 1 teaspoon of pure raw honey. Right after I blend the water and wax, when it is still somewhat hot, I add the honey and slowly stir it in with a whisk. Don’t beat it in, just slowly blend for about 15 seconds. It is luscious dreamy cream, and the honey is soo very good for skin. 😀

  15. May

    This is a venture I have been trying to convince my husband that we need to try. I will be anxiously awaiting more reports.

  16. so excited to find another new beekeeper – we just started this week too with our first two hives. Looking forward to following you and your hives this first season 🙂

  17. Marie

    Congratulations Kendra!! So happy for you that you started your bee keeping adventure!

  18. This is just so amazing in so many ways! Ever since I took my one “token science” credit during my arts degree (Apiculture) I have been obsessed with the life of the honey bee & I can’t wait to have hives of my own! The professor I had wore a different bee themed shirt every week, so what can I say? Pretty hard to resist!
    Alas – I’ll have to wait until I have a little bit more space… there are some bylaw specifications which might put a damper on the whole process. Until then, I live vicariously through A Sonoma Garden! Merci!

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