Backyard Bee Keeping

We’ve been backyard bee keeping for twenty-one years now and I certainly couldn’t possibly imagine life without a perennial supply of honey at my finger tips. Having our own honey has always given me that sense of appreciation for this natural sweetener which changes in flavour with every season. Using a spoon of honey in our cup of tea instead of sugar has elevated us into this luxury status and sugar is nowhere to be seen in our house except for the brewing of our fruit wine- but that’s another story.

From the moment we first had the idea of wanting our own bee hives until licking that delectable honey from the comb, a lot of water had passed under the bridge.

Backyard bee keeping

It was all quite straight forward really when looking for a hive or two for sale in the local Trader, buying them and then taking them home.

It was all going well, until the getting out of the car time came with the bee hives that things began to get very interesting. The bee hive boxes had moved around in the trailer. Although they were strapped together, bees were escaping everywhere. We couldn’t get out of the car as there were bees abuzz all around us! After a while, with the windows wound up, we began to gasp for air and decided to make a run for it. It certainly got the adrenalin pumping.

Well things settled down and the next day with all the protective gear on, we moved the boxes together again and placed the hives on site making sure they were facing an Easterly aspect. Some time passed; quite a lot in fact. There was a huge barrier for me to cross over to the next step. I read every bee keeping book I could get my hands on and talked with a few apiarists to work up the confidence and the skills needed to rob the hives until I felt right to do the job.

Then one day I decided it was time to bite the bullet and just go for it. With all the preparation and all the right gear, I knew that I could succeed at robbing the bees of their delicious honey.

To get dressed for the act, I donned an old long sleeved flannel nightie with gloves sewn into place. I borrowed a pair of white trousers from Frank my husband, and with a hat, veil and gumboots these completed my suit of armour for robbing the bees. With the smoker in one gloved hand and the hive tool in the other, I tentatively walked up to the hives to do the deed. I puffed smoke and jabbed at the lid of the box but it wouldn’t budge.

Lid totally stuck!

I didn’t come this far to be defeated so after quite a bit more jabbing and bashing, the lid finally came loose. By now my presence had alerted the bees. Bees were everywhere.

Look at the wax and honey dripping from the lid!

What a sight.

Meanwhile Frank, who was standing at a safe distance, was urging me to keep the smoker going.

Concentration was in top gear now.

Gently loosen the frames.

Lift the frames out of the box.

Now pick up the brush and gently wipe the bees free of the frame.

Keep puffing!

Yes.

I’ve got one frame.

I place it in the wheelbarrow.

The bees were becoming frantic; such a noise.

Smoke!

Yes!

Another frame.  Careful with the fingers.

Ouch!

Keep puffing!

Yes!

Frame by frame, out they came.

This is fantastic.

New frames back into place, lid back, aah we can breathe again.

Six frames totally full with honey. The rest is left for the bees.

Now for the fun part. With a sharp knife dipped in hot water, the cappings were removed. Soon we were slurping and sucking honey straight from the comb. What a delight this was, and the fragrance, oh so beautiful. We extracted seven litres of honey.

The next day we had a group of WWOOFERS from Japan and Italy. (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) A friend of ours brought them along for the day and we would put on an organic lunch from the farm in exchange for an hour or so of work in the garden. Much work still had to be done to prepare the lunch and I was still fiddling around with the honey and the other bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Bzzz. Oh a bee.

I went into the garden to pick the greens for the salad and to check on the workers. I came back to the kitchen and bzzz, bzzz, bzzz; oh more bees.

Lots of them.

Bees everywhere.

Especially in the kitchen!

I’ve got ten people to feed; I don’t need this right now!

How am I going to prepare the lunch?

There was no choice but to don a long sleeved shirt with a hat and veil.

Carefully I crept into the kitchen to grab a few utensils.

What could I do to get rid of them?

Clean up the honey remains!

Empty the honey containers and the strainer, pick up chewed bits of wax; it all had to go.

Frank came in at this instant and his stress levels went up immediately.

We’ve got to spray!

With what?

I don’t know; anything.

We haven’t got any spray.

With a can of WD40 Frank began to spray around the kitchen area.

Bees were madly buzzing over the emptied frames from the day before. With a long pole I managed to pick up the frames and place them outside away from the kitchen area.

Well, this story has a happy ending. The luncheon went off beautifully.

Lots of aaaah’s and bowing of heads and laughter.

And hardly a bee in sight.

The work in the garden was really appreciated and it was all done in good spirit.

And the best bit about backyard bee keeping? We got the honey!

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