Sunday, May 08, 2011


I'm super interested in getting bees.

I read several homesteading themed blogs, and a couple of the people are getting bees this year. Amy (at Homestead Revival) especially keeps blogging about it, and I love her posts about bees.

Plus, a couple that we know from church is getting bees this year.

And, I've started reading Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis, which is fascinating and actually gets me a little misty sometimes. (Okay, both times, of all two times that I've read the preface. I had to stop reading when I was reading it aloud to J, because it was making me sad.)

Anyway, I think I want bees. They would be good for our garden, plus we would get honey, and we would help restore a species that is extremely valuable. We don't grow mono-crops, so I think we're pretty ideal that way. Plus, we would get honey.

And, how much work could it be?? They're industrious creatures, right?

So I'm learning about bees now. Usually you have to order bees earlier in the year, like in January or February, but I saw some available online even like a week ago.

But, the getting-started costs are probably about $350. You have to buy the bees, which are $80-100 per cage (which is one hive worth of bees, plus a queen). Plus you have to buy actual hives (wooden boxes, usually), and the frames that go in them, and special bottom and top pieces, and you have to put the hive on something so that it isn't directly on the ground. A hive ranges in cost, but I think it's about another $100 for all of the different parts. Plus, you have to get a smoker (so you can calm the bees when you need to go out to the hive and inspect or do things) (another $30), and a bee brush, and a hat and veil (another $30+). Bee suits are optional, although I don't really think they are. A lot of people just wear jeans and put a rubber band at each of the ankles so that bees can't get up inside. Supposedly bees don't sting through heavy jeans. A full bee suit is about $150+. And you need gloves. Bee keeping gloves go up to your elbows! So, all of this is a bit much for an impulsive purchase. It doesn't exactly fit in our budget for this month.

And, there are getting-started classes, which I would definitely want to do before we tried to get-started. But those classes are pretty much all in March or April, and not in May. Intermediate classes are in May, but we're not intermediate.

Plus, also, J is not really excited or interested in getting bees. We've had some quality conversation today, though.

Me: "But J, think about it! If we got bees, we could have a land of milk and honey! If Caroline kids we'll have milk, and the bees would give us honey! It would be like in the Bible. You like the Bible!"
J: "We could have a promised land? Right here at our house?"
Me: "Yes!"

And then later...

J: "So you said the 3lb hives of bees usually come with 12-17 thousand bees, right?"
Me: "Uh, I think so."
J: "Could we start with, like, 50 instead?"
Me: [pause] "Fifty thousand? You want three beehives?"

We also talked about putting hives on our roof, so that they're not really flying around our yard as much. I've seen pictures of that online. I don't know whether it would work well or not.

The real problem is, back in 2003 J lived in Texas. He had this chihuahua dog that he absolutely loved ("Bubba") and it used to always play with these two pug dogs (a male and a female) that belonged to someone else. One day he went outside and found all three dogs were very, very sick. There were dead bees all over the place. J rushed all of the dogs to the nearest vet. On the way, the girl pug died, and a few hours later the boy pug died. After 17 hours of expensive medical treatment, J's dog died. Bubba had 70 bee stings. They counted 25 bee stings on the girl pug's ear--and her whole body was covered in stings. His dog that he loved so much really, actually, really did die of a killer bee attack.

It's not that common, I tell J. Bee attacks are very unusual. And, the bees we would get would not be Africanized honeybees. They would be docile European ones. J worries about killer bees: they are in Utah now. And, they sometimes take over European honeybee hives. So we could be inviting killer bees right into our backyard, maybe. We looked it up online, and that actually does happen sometimes. (I think there are probably things that can be done to make it extremely unlikely.)

J warns me that he would not help with bees at all. Ever. Even if I needed help. So I tell him I wouldn't even ask for his help, I wouldn't need help anyway, they would just be my project. He's hoping that by next year my interest will have faded. Eh, we'll see. I think it would feel awesome to have our own fresh honey. And, they would be good for our garden.

Which, by the way, we don't actually have yet, so it's okay that I am not getting bees this year because I should really be focusing on my garden anyway. Guess what! I tilled the land for it this week. My father-in-law brought a bunch of compost over, and then I used his rototiller to blend it in with the soil. The final size of my garden is about 12 feet by 32 feet. I measured because I need to have a fence installed or I will not have a garden at all--the goats will be extremely persistent about trying to eat my garden before I do, so I think I'll need a 6' chain link fence. Maybe I am already too busy for bees anyway.

For now, I think I'll just keep reading about beekeeping. My neighbors' bees will pollinate our garden anyway.


Stephanie said...

Dear Emily.

Dont get bees. Instead just enjoy knowing that the couple at church does it. Dont you remember "My Girl"???

Instead maybe do crafts from:

Emily said...

But Steph -

Bees have been our helpers for years and years and years (and years). Without them, we basically will have almost no food...we need bees to pollinate our plants. But bees are in serious trouble right now. They're disappearing. Their colonies are collapsing. It's going to be a huge problem.

I do remember "My Girl" and I've thought about that. There are different breeds of bees, and the ones people have when they do beekeeping are bees that are like, domesticated. So they're less likely to swarm. And actually, they eat up the pollen and stuff, so wild bees are less likely to come, which means it's actually safer.

I love that website, but are there any crafts where you can make real honey? Or preserve an ancient, extremely important species?

I won't get bees this year, ok? Deal. You should read this book, Fruitless Fall. It's super interesting.