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beehive prepped for my home kitchen garden

I scraped every inch of wood on the inside of this hive body, and put a fresh coat of paint on the outside. Each slat of wood inside the box is the top of a “frame” that will hold a sheet of beeswax called “foundation.” When I received the phone call this morning telling me I could get a package of bees, I mounted foundation in the frames, and assembled the beehive out in my yard.

I had very low confidence that I’d have honeybees in my home kitchen garden this year. As I reported about six weeks ago, I rebooted my effort to get a beehive started (Beekeeping at my Home Kitchen Garden) after last year’s discouragement. However, because of budget constraints, I was planning simply to bait a beehive and hope to capture a wild swarm of honeybees.

Shopping for Beekeeping Gear

In the past six weeks, I cleaned up a hive body (called a brood chamber) and the component frames that will eventually hold honeycomb made by bees. So, on Saturday I decided to visit a local apiary to buy foundation. Foundation is a sheet of beeswax pressed with a pattern of hexagons that bees will happily build upon to create honeycomb and brood comb.

The apiary was closed on Saturday, but its operator told me there’s a beekeeping supply store just up the street. This was news to me, so I drove out to see what the store had to offer.

A Truckload of Bees

bees headed into New York City

The folks I found filling their car with bees at the beekeeping supply store had driven out from New York City. They have been campaigning to legalize beekeeping in Manhattan, and the beekeeping ban ended in March! Apparently, there are a lot of beekeepers in the city; these packages were going to folks all over the island.

While I wasn’t paying attention last October, a company called Brushy Mountain Bee Farm opened a branch store about five miles north of where I live. The store sells everything a beekeeper needs to succeed. Coincidentally, on that Saturday, the store had received a truckload of honey bees customers had ordered.

I browsed, I chatted with the staff, and I watched a customer load a station wagon with about sixty packages of bees. I don’t know how many packages had passed through the store that day, but some people who ordered failed to show during the scheduled pickup time. It became apparent that there might be unclaimed packages of bees… and here my reclaimed, ancient beehive was ready for occupants.

I left my phone number, and this morning I received a call. Some bees had, in fact, been abandoned by the people who ordered them. Yep! I bought a package of bees.

Bees Installed in my Home Kitchen Garden

three pound package of honey bees for my home kitchen garden

The package of bees I bought sits on my porch as I suit up to prevent bee stings when I install them in the hive. It was so cold that the bees could barely move much less sting me. This three pound package of bees held at least 10,000 bees, including a queen in her own container. The queen’s cage is inside with the rest of the bees… but she’s in her own room in part so the beekeeper can make sure she makes it into the hive.

It was raining and miserably cold today by the time I had the beehive ready to receive its new residents. It was so unpleasant that I didn’t even try to take photos of the procedure. The bees were sluggish because off the cold, and they got a bit wet. Not one tried to sting me, and I’m afraid several hundred didn’t make it into the hive.

Of the more than 10,000 bees that made it into the hive, the livelier workers immediately started examining the beeswax foundation. I hope they quickly find the food I provided for them. As they mill about and feed, they’ll warm the inside of the beehive… and that will make them livelier still.

The rain and cold will continue for another day, but by the weekend, it will be warm enough to draw the bees out so they begin exploring their new neighborhood. I’ll keep an eye on the food and replenish it when it runs low (which I hope it does quickly) and I’ll check inside the hive in ten days to make sure the bees have settled in OK.

I’ll share more about the beekeeping experience in coming posts.

 

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5 Responses to Honey Bees are in My Home Kitchen Garden

  • Robert_H says:

    Bees, ducks and chickens (and any other farm-related critters) are all, unfortunately, illegal in my town. In fact, expressly forbidden unless you have a 500 setback, which is almost an impossibility without having a several-acre lot.

    So please keep sharing with those of us who would like to follow in your footsteps.

  • admin says:

    Robert_H: Sorry to hear your town has a chokehold on stuff that is fundamentally good for the world… I’ll bet they think it’s really dandy for people to have lawns which give rise to unnecessary noise and pollution, and suck millions of hours a week out of America’s productivity. (Sorry about the rant.)

    I’ve an in-town friend who bought chickens and contacted the township authority to ask if there would be a problem. The person he spoke with asked, “Will the chickens be livestock or pets?” My friend started explaining how his kids would learn stuff when the township authority interrupted and asked again, “Will the chickens be livestock or pets?” The message was clear: the chickens were pets, and that made them OK for the township.

    As for honeybees? Goodness! New York City just legalized honeybee ownership! It’s time for all towns and cities to get on board! Every additional beehive is another chance to maintain critical mass of our pollinator population.

    In any case, thanks so much for visiting!

    -Daniel

  • Tammy Curry says:

    I may have to add you to the list of people that I intend to pick their apiary brains. I so want honeybees and have an idea of where I want to place them.

  • admin says:

    Tammy: Please pick away, if you can find any brains to pick. Working with bees through all the seasons was always so fascinating for me. I can’t think of a more spectacular display in nature (though there are many to equal it) than that of a captured swarm organizing itself as it moves its queen into a new hive. The behaviors of bees is so complex and efficient… it really is as though all the bees together in a colony make up a single organism.

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