Beekeeping is no instant gratification hobby and figuratively speaking, beekeepers are a dying breed. There are fewer and fewer of them, and you may wonder that anyone would want a hobby involving stinging insects. Why now you ask? As part of my lifelong quest to be more like a honeybee, it was finally time to acquire a colony of bees and place a hive in our backyard. The stack of bee books next to my reading lamp grew tall as I took a deep dive into the mysteries of bees. There was much to learn with big choices to make; type of hive, strain of bees (Italian, Russian, Carniolan…), where to place them and which plants to grow for the most nectar. There was bee anatomy, the inner working of the hive, and much to know about the Queen, the workers, drones, guard bees, nurse bees, …
Though I have been sweet on bees for a long time, I listened to practical advice from friends and family who advised that bees are too difficult, thankless and expensive to keep, with all the pesticides and colony collapse disorder and …. Despite all that, and more, I woke up one day knowing that this is my time for bees. After reading bee books, watching bee films and attending a bee lecture, I felt ready to order bees and a hive for our backyard.
Bears Can Be a Bee Problem
A succession of bears showed up after the last frost of April and didn’t retreat to the recesses of the forest until the first rains of mid-July; too late to get a hive started. But, like my bee role models, I can be single-minded in my pursuit of a goal and know when to rely on hive-type collective wisdom. Figuring that bears will always be a factor, Glen researched how to protect hives and built a sturdy electrified apiary enclosure that will make a hungry bear think twice.
Here is the problem. We live at 7,000 feet elevation, surrounded by forest. Forest where bears wake up from hibernation in early Spring, ravenous and looking to eat the protein rich baby bee grubs in hives, with honey for dessert. Spring is also the most critical time for bees. A new hive must be started in Spring to give the hard-working bees time to gather enough nectar to get them through winter, with a little extra for the bee keeper. For some reason the bears went crazy this year, marauding through our area on a regular basis, destroying a neighbor’s bee hive, killing friends’ chickens (goodbye fresh eggs), tearing open locked garbage containers, and getting progressively bolder looking for food and water. During the three most important bee months, it was commonplace for the dogs of the neighborhood to wake us up at night with a howling chorus when they smelled bear and heard them raiding around gardens and trash cans.
All this underscores that even the best-laid plans are faint suggestions where nature and insects are involved. My Big Plan would have to wait for Spring. Keen to the point of obsession, I came up with Plan Bee. The time between now and next Spring can be put to good use as a bee keepers apprentice to learn the hands-on art of beekeeping. Until next Spring, I am suiting up when called by my mentor and word is out for anyone with a swarm at their house, to call so that I can foster, if you will, before becoming a true Bee Momma. Sweet!