First Full Day of Beekeeping

Yesterday was our first full bee day. Frank and I kitted up in full beekeeping gear in preparation for cleaning off the outside of the hives. Both of us wear boots, jeans and disposable painters coveralls (with handy elastic bands on the wrists and ankles stopping bees from working their way up arms and legs) over top of our clothing.

Frank bought the fancy hoodie and long, elegant gloves to complete his ensemble.

Frank in full beekeeping gear

I’m trying a scaled down version of hat (just a veil over an old straw hat) and gloves (soft leather gloves designed for concrete workers and the like). I’m confident the hat will be fine. The bees could more easily crawl between the collar of my jumpsuit and the veil but they probably won’t. The lack of a body to my hat means I’m choosing to wear 2 shirts so the bees can’t sting through. A heavy work-shirt (which I don’t own) would work just as well.

The gloves are still an open question. My finger work is going to be rather inhibited but I don’t think I’ll need to do needlepoint while caring for the bees. The real problem is the wrists are short so I have to work on a way to keep that sensitive skin from being exposed. I’ve made myself a cuff with velcro to extend the glove and keep it close to my skin. This is a work in progress. I may scale up and forget budget beekeeping if I find wrist stings become frequent.

Laura dressed in her beekeeping protective clothing

After gearing up we went down and finished removing all that messy tape that surrounded the hives and Frank swept the outside of the hives – they had spider webs and dust all over. The bees were everywhere but not particularly aggressive (I certainly didn’t feel under attack).

Then we stepped back to watch. They flew out and around the hive. They carried pollen in. They hung around the entrance chatting (or whatever bees do at the entrance to their hive). It all seemed pretty normal bee-like stuff to me.

The chickens really couldn’t be bothered making a fuss about the newcomers (ignore them and they’ll go away perhaps?). Bronwyn chose the bed about a metre in front of the hives to take a dust bath. That Bronwyn is the daredevil of my girls! The others did what chickens do when there aren’t about 200 million bees (it seems like that many to me) zooming around and chose to do it right in front of the bees. Not all day, but frequent enough for me to be confident that bees don’t bother chickens (and vice versa).

Bathing, scratching and preening – the chickens “react” to the new bee hives

For the rest of the day we left the bees alone with the exception of a few inspection tours (yep, bees kept flying in, flying out and hanging around doing nuttin’). How long does it take for bees to recover from jetlag?

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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4 Responses to First Full Day of Beekeeping

  1. oh wow! you have bees now? I would be very nervous about stings, but it seems as though you were well prepared.

    • I think there is some primeval fear of bees embedded in humans. Everyone is telling me they would be terrified and would never keep bees. It’s like I said I’m raising lions or something. But who wants lions, they don’t make honey 🙂

  2. Coop Poop says:

    So it seems like you got the bee thing down pretty quick! I didn’t know bees could just go in and out of the hive all day… but of course, how else to suck on nectar or transport pollen or whatever they do to make honey? Behind Frank? What is that building and the 2 tubular steel-like contraptions? You’ve got a really neat set-up.

    • I dare not say I’ve got it all down because that sounds like a bit of a jinx, but it is going really well. I wander near the bees and they just fly around me, not even landing to see what that big moving lump is. They have places to go, pollen to grab. Those poor worker bees are in and out without a break every day until they die. Live fast, die young. They only last a few weeks, poor things. They literally work themselves to death. Right now the sun is shining and I can watch the bees zing in and around the hives as they orient themselves to go to the best nectar source in the district (wherever that is).

      The steel tanks are our rainwater tanks – about 4000L I think. Behind that is our neighbour’s deck with a pretty serious privacy screen (we live on the slope so we all have single storey houses but the back of the house is always up one level). I’d love to grow some vines up it but there was a beautiful boganvialla there when we moved in and they chopped it down since it was ruining their deck which means we are stuck with looking at man made structures. If I raised my right arm straight out from my body in the photo above I’d be pointing at the rainwater tanks. Behind me you can see the new fence at the back of the property so that gives you a rough idea of how big (or small) the garden is. It’s a very normal backyard but we’ve crammed it full of rainwater tanks, veggie beds, compost heaps, a chicken coop and now bee hives. I agree – a really neat set-up!

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