With the American honey bee becoming more endangered, its decline threatening crop production and food shortages, we thought it was good practice to include honeybees on the farm. (Not to mention the promise and sweet temptation of their product: Honey.)
We started with four hives and are slowly building up as our knowledge and skills increase. Luckily we have a small leg up in realm of honeybees in the welcome shape of a friend named Erwin. Erwin has been raising bees for almost 40 years. He makes all of his 60 hives in which his bees happily reside.
Immediately we upgraded our store-bought designs to reflect his vast knowledge, placing one screen on top and one screen on bottom of the hive, both sandwiched in-between the lid and the newly-built sliding base.
The top screen acts sort of as a one-way window. We can open the top to view the health and activities of the hive through the screen, but the bees stay put and don’t fly up and out to investigate us.
The bottom screen and sliding base is more important as the screen is large enough to allow any death mites (either Tracheal mites or Varroa mites) to drop through onto the sliding base. The sliding base is coated with a light spray of oil, trapping the tiny mites, killing them. This way we can simply slide out the oiled base to see if there are any of these blood-sucking creatures in the hive and take appropriate action immediately.
Through the past four years we have gained another eight hives, but lost four due to weakness either of hive or queen (3) and foul brood (1). We have had our share of mites that luckily we could rid, but they require diligence. Another good way to keep the Varroa mites out of the hive is to dust the bees with powdered sugar. As the bees clean off the sugar from themselves and other hive-mates, they also clean off the mites. I’m happy to say that our remaining eight hives, three of which are the original hives, remain strong and produce a wonderful supply of honey.
Extracting the honey will be the next item we tackle. Mmm-Mm-Yum!