We love honey: that golden elixir made by nature’s true alchemists. But our decision to keep a hive had nothing to do with honey. We decided to add a hive because, well bees need us and we need them! Bees need safe chemical- free habitats to work their magic and we need bees to pollinate! And boy do they pollinate! We have seen a doubling in fruit and veggie production since we invited honey- bees to the party.
Our first simple single box hive was purchased in 2006 from “Bee Kind” in Sebastopol, a lovely lil’ store dedicated to the health of the honey- bee population, a great place to start any bee adventure. With the advice of a neighbor we set up the hive to face east providing winter sun and under a densely leafed Ash tree to provide deep summer shade. Also providing the perfect spot to lie quietly of an afternoon and marvel at the unflagging industry of these tiny creatures. To watch them return to the hive, legs laden with pollen in colors from yellow gold to rich magenta, showcasing the latest tasty blossoms on offer.
Even in the healthiest ecosystem, with their honey left in intact, bees are vulnerable to a plethora of dangers; parasitic mites, wax moths and skunks, oh my! Even a long wet spring can put a hive at risk. We also found out after the first year that overcrowding can cause an otherwise healthy hive to vacate the premises. One day the bees were gone, no sign of disease or invaders, no little dead bodies, simply no bees. When this happened, we took advantage of an empty hive to add another layer to the box and within six months a bee swarm took up residence. We have been happy neighbors ever since.
As with all things on our homestead, we are learning as we go; reading, observing and turning to our more experienced bee keeping neighbors for insight and wisdom. There exists a never ending and constantly expanding wealth of knowledge about the magnificent honeybee and every bee- keeper has their own bit of lore to share. Even so, this industrious diminutive creature still holds many secrets to keep us enthralled.