Monday, June 28, 2010

Backyard Beekeeping

Who doesn't love getting the perfect gift from a friend who really knows you? For my 37th birthday my friend Todd enrolled us in a Kenyan Top Bar beekeeping workshop at Institute for Urban Homesteading in Oakland, taught by Ruby aka Sparky Bee Girl. I had been wanting to try my hand at beekeeping, having had a lifelong fascination with bees. We built 4 Top Bar hives and then got on a local swarm list. Busy with the chickens, and it being late June, I was prepared to wait til next year, but then this morning I got word of a swarm in Richmond about 10 miles away! Off I went with a cardboard box, hedge clippers, a hoodie, and some gloves. There I met two great gals Anni and Carol, and found the swarm about 2 feet above the ground in a Manzanita bush next to their house. After away some low lying branches I placed the box underneath the swarm and gave the bush a good shake. Most of the bees fell immediately in while others flew around me in a frenzy. Quite a rush! I got a bite on my cheek and a sting on my neck before getting the box closed up and getting out of there. With all the adrenaline pumping I hardly even felt it. The rest of the bees starting swarming on the branch again so Carol cut it while I shoved it all in a second box. I wanted to be sure to get the queen!

A good rule of thumb when transporting bees is...make sure the box is closed up well. Can you see where this is going? After parting from our bonding bee adventure I begin the drive back home to East Oakland with my new found friends. A few blocks later I glance in the back and notice a few bees flying around. Few more blocks, few more bees... I drive home like a bat outta hell with my hoodie pulled over my head.

Back home, I left the windows for awhile while running the boxes to the backyard. Nothing to see here folks, nope nothing out of the ordinary happening here... The roar from the boxes was deafening! I was definitely intimidated to open and dump the contents into my hive but I had a lunch date in 30 minutes! I removed the bars cut the tape and dumped the bees into the hive. With bees flying all over the place I slowly and carefully replaced the bars on top of the hive. Tonight I placed a bowl of sugar water in the hive. Peeking in I could see a large clump of bees hanging off some of the bars in the back. I hope the bees take nicely to their new home and thrive!

( Institute for Urban Homesteading
( Links to Ruby's hive blueprints/ useful links etc.

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