May 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Beekeeping | Leave a comment

bees 001The package of bees arrived yesterday morning. The post office called minutes after their official opening to tell me that they had a box filled with bees and could I please come and get it as soon as possible.

This is my second package of bees. The first batch lasted two years, but due to poor management, they did not last the winter, so I had to get a new box o’bees. It’s not obvious from the picture, but there is a tiny little box completely covered in the swarm, in which the queen is living. The box is plugged up with candy. When I transferred the bees into the hive (a technique that largely consisted of opening the top of the box and then shaking as many of the bees into the waiting hive as quickly as possible – feel free to visual this process for yourself) I also placed the queen’s box in the hive. Over the course of the next week the bees will gradually eat all of the candy, setting the queen free. By that time, all of the bees in the hive will have accepted her as the queen, and the entire hive can get down to business producing gallons and gallons of honey for me to steal from them this fall.

In the medieval period beekeepers would have used a skep, or the traditional domed wickwork hive that many people still associate with beekeeping. Unfortunately, the skep had a number of drawbacks, including that you had to essentially destroy it, and all of the bees within, to get the honey out. Also, there was no way to keep the queen from certain parts of the hive, which meant that the honey was mixed in with “brood”, or larvae. Apparently having brood-inflected honey was considered a delicacy in some areas…yet another example of how modern tastes have changed a bit in the past few centuries!

Most importantly, the skep cannot be inspected, which means that it is illegal in a lot of places, including my state. While I’ve never actually been visited by an inspector, I still want to follow the letter of the law, so I have my bees in one of the ubiquitous box hives that anyone from an agricultural area is familiar with.

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