Bees! Part 2: Winter is Coming

One of my favourite things about keeping bees is that they demand community. You could probably do the majority of beekeeping alone, but it is so much more fun fretting over the bees with a dedicated bee co-parent as I had in Sarah. I also credit her husband Dave who was game enough to put up the Lucy and Ethel of beekeeping. You two are the bees knees. There, I said it!

Winter

Sarah and Dave purchased a new house and rented out their old place. The bees were a bit of a hard sell with the new tenants, given that the house was rented out in the “aggressive period” in September where bees are capping off their honey and guarding their resources from wasps. (It’s pretty impressive to watch a gang of tiny honeybees take down a wasp, by the by. The OCD among us will be happy to note that organization trumps all physical threats.) But the tenants agreed to allow the bees until they were done collecting pollen, as the bees would have swarmed back to their old location. Then we would have had Swarm: The Second Coming, claimed ignorance, and just moved on to a new hobby.

As pollen season wrapped up, we had to support the bees in their winter preparations. The bees were busy killing off all the useless male drones and shoving them out the door so they didn’t steal resources all winter (good system, am I right, ladies?). Our job was to make sure the colony was healthy and insulate it up for winter. This also meant that we’d get HONEY! LIQUID GOLD FOR REALZ HONEY!

We later smashed this beautiful capped off honey apart and ate the fruits of their labour. Gotta pay the rent, bees.

Frankly, we were not really excited to steal honey from pissy bees after the Swarm: Everyone Gets Stung incident. But steal we did, and no one was injured. Sarah’s kitchen was very, very sticky though. We should have done it at my house where another layer of sticky would just be background noise against the layer of peanut butter finely smeared over everything. (Note, do not bring your kid with peanut allergies over here).

Straining out all the wax and bee parts. No one likes it when I say that.

As I found out, beekeeping involves an inexplicable amount of duct tape (we might be doing it wrong). This is when you should employ the bees’ community spirit and have someone help you so you don’t have wads of duct tape stuck to your clothing when you go to your fancy hair dresser, which is what happened when I slaved over custom insulation panels for the bee hive one day. I will never operate duct tape alone again.

So much duct tape. But even more was stuck to my jacket at the hair dresser, causing my hair dresser to make A Face.

We were blessed with an early winter, and now the bees are only coming out to take a little tiny bee dump and then going back inside for another week. I AM SO JEALOUS.

That is only half the fucking snow we have right now.

Moving Day

With the hunkered down for winter, we decided to move them to Sarah’s new house. Moving a hive that weighs something comparable to a small adult a block and a half was not going to be accomplished by us two broads, so we started cashing in on people’s general interest in beekeeping. It did not escape my notice that more people volunteered to move bees on a cold Monday night for no reward than attend my birthday party. I think that really speaks to how deeply unpopular I am the charismatic nature of bees.

We chose our bee moving crew well, and that sucker was safely packed up into the back of Dave’s Subaru without dumping thousands of bees to their frozen death as we had feared. The bees safely made the 1.5 block journey to their new home where they should be content for the rest of winter.

One of the standard features of an Impreza is that it perfectly fits a 2-level Langstroth bee hive in the hatch.

Then we raised a glass of mead to our efforts, reflected on the community nature of bees, contemplated next season, watched the swarm video about a dozen times and then decided on our next project: A reality show where we all wear GoPros all the time because they make everything look so goddamned awesome.

SEE:

28 comments

    1. It’s not for everyone, but as far as agricultural hobbies go it’s pretty low maintenance. The bees just kind of do what they do and every so often they need a fairly low maintenance intervention. Most of our “beekeeping” was sitting in front of the hive drinking wine.

  1. I dunno, that still sounds like a scary hobby! I saw some enormous bees last summer- their bottom halves looked like shiny black leather. S+M bees? I didn’t get too close!

    1. S&M bees must be some german variety. Were they wearing cowboy hats by any chance?
      When we first got the bees, we were pretty nervous but really the bees are very peaceful and can mostly be approached without gear on or anything. As for the swarm incident, let’s just say a lot was learned and we won’t be making those same mistakes next year. We’ll make new ones.

  2. You are a divine apiarist.(Is that a word?) Reading your post I now love bees, Subaru Imprezas, your friend Sara. I still don’t like winter and duct tape *is* hard to manage. I can’t wait til Spring and the bees wake up.

    1. I am completely with you on all those things, cheers to that!
      Interesting aside about the bees; bees actually leave the hive all winter long because they won’t poop in the hive. I had no idea at all. Bees are the coolest.

      1. RollerGiraffe, Bees totally are the coolest. I didn’t know they left the hive all winter long.
        There is a strain of bees that live on the west coast that people actually put in their freezers to hibernate over the winter. Then come spring they take them out and unthaw them and the bees “spring” back to life. They are amazing for sure.

    2. Funny swarmed haerdr , they stung my neck through the bee suit, plus followed me by the hundreds to my truck over 150 feet away. I have never met a honey bee that aggressive, the hive had to bee africanized. Maybe the video camera was to far away to see. Thanks for the comment.

  3. If I were given a choice I would have much preferred attending your b-day party than throwing out my back moving a hive packed with thousands of bees across snow-packed tundra. But that’s just the way my mind works.

  4. What about wearing GoPros on your beekeeping helmets for the next swarm? That would be awesome! And Subarus are great for carrying all kinds of stuff. Peter has a Tribeca which is the best car ever (in the SUV category anyway. My Crossfire is really the best car ever!).

    1. TOTALLY! That is happening. I might force a swarm just to capture that on film.
      I really like the Subarus. Dave offered to find one for me, but he’s australian and his drives on the right, so that’s terrifying. I really dig your crossfire too.. I can’t wait to get out of the minivan lane.

  5. I think I have a nest of wasps embedded between my drywall and the outside of the house. Any chance you live in CO and want to come by and expand your hobby into death-threatening territory, Rollergiraffe?

    1. Honestly, the only major muscle group that got any exercise this season was the old elbow. In other news; I may need to join AA.
      The honey is pretty great; and the bonus is that it totally measures up against all those beautifully handmade scarves and such that I have been receiving for years and returning with a gift card to the Outback.

  6. This was so interesting!! I never knew all that about beekeeping! (Admittedly, I didn’t know pretty much anything about beekeeping…haha) When you loaded them into the car, did you close off the place where they come out to take a bee dump? (I mean I assume so, I would think they would get out and swarm the car otherwise, but as I stated, I know nothing…)

    1. We did close it off… lots of duct tape was involved. But, the bees aren’t prone to night time adventures and will only really get bothered if you start to break into the hive, so I am reasonably sure we wouldn’t have had a subaru full of bees.. famous last words!

  7. Wow, bees in your car is a whole new level of beekeeping!
    I’ve always wondered, when you get the honey, do you find bee larvae in some of the cells and have to get rid of them? Or do the larvae live in different wood-slot-thingies than where the honey is stored? Sometimes I get honeycomb at the farmers market, and I always wonder if I’m going to go to smear it on my toast and get smeared larvae instead… Mmm this is making me hungry…

    1. The bees have distinct brood colony, and any beekeeper worth their salt should know this and have some sort of interest in keeping their brood colony intact. Plus, I’d imagine the bees would get pretty upset if you tried to harvest their babies. But, I wouldn’t guarantee that there’s no bee parts, pollen or general detritus in honeycomb. In fact I would guarantee there is!

  8. How scary, Jen. I would so afraid I would be stung, and to have to transport them all. Oh, but the fresh honey. That just might be worth it. Loved the cat video. I watched it with my kids and we all laughed!!

    1. They’re not very active when it’s cold, so had we dropped them we probably could have just sauntered away without incident. Except I probably would have been kneeling in the middle of a pile of bees, crying. Like I did when I dropped a jar of fresh honey and smashed it.

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