Editor’s note: Stacie is a contributing blogger from Atlanta, GA.
At the beginning of 2011, after years of research and thinking about it, I purchased two beehives and ordered two packages of bees from a south Georgia bee farm. There were all sorts of reasons – wanting to help the bees out in the era of Colony Collapse Disorder, pollination for my garden, honey for my wine and beer making – but ultimately I think I just found the idea of keeping bees weird and wacky and went ahead and did it.
What an experience that’s been so far. I got through the 2011 season with only two stings, but about a million lessons in how to (and how not to) deal with tens of thousands of stinging insects.
If I had to give advice to a newbie, it would be this: Just invest in a good beekeeping jacket with attached veil and buy a pair of goatskin gloves that secure at your elbows. I had read and studied and looked at people’s hives, but nothing prepared me for the intensity of staring down into a writhing mass of busy bees at hive inspections.
I started the season with only a veil that I put on a big cowboy hat. I ended the season with the aforementioned stuff. It’s just easier to be confident when you’re not constantly concerned about stings.
My bees didn’t arrive until late May last year, so I’ve been concerned about their ability to overwinter all year. Because we’re having an unseasonably warm winter, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to monitor them from the outside as they come and go. They’ve been working my compost pile, and I see them returning to their hives with their pollen baskets full – most likely from foraging at the local Walmart garden center. This is the only context I can think of where having Walmart up the street is an advantage.
I have no idea what they’ve been up to since my last visit in late September. I can’t wait for the spring to get underway so I can open these up and take a look see. I didn’t harvest any honey last year so the hives could have all they made, but I’ve still been unsure about their ability to survive.
So far, so good. Here’s hoping for happy bees in 2012.