The fun part of beekeeping!

So, when Alex first came to me and said that he wanted to have bee hives in our backyard I was quite skeptical. Ever since getting stung in the neck many times at the cabin I have been scared of any flying, stinging creature. But knowing that he was very interested I went along for the ride.

I have only suited up once and gone into the bee yard for the hive checks but instead usually I just let him do what he needs to do and help as I can. Well, I think that things are about to change…

We were able to pick up most of our extracting supplies out in North Carolina while Alex was attending the EAS conference. This meant that we would be able to start extracting our honey and getting it ready to bottle. Now this to me seemed exciting!

uncapping knife

On Friday night we took five test frames and I got to uncap them using the master uncapping knife. I think Alex only got to do one side because I was having so much fun that I wouldn’t give him his new toy back (although I did offer a few times).

Then last night we decided to try out our new extractor. So we set it up with the first four frames and gave it a whirl. The aroma of honey was heavenly and it was actually fun to spin the crank and know that when you opened the lid there would be honey in the bottom.

extracting honey

We are now in the process of filtering all of the honey so that we can bottle it and have our first small harvest of honey. The major harvest will come in a month or so and I can’t wait.

I also ordered a soap making kit so that I can try making my own soap with all of the wax that we will have.

So the lesson learned is that beekeeping isn’t all that bad…as long as Alex takes care of the outside hive part and I’ll take care of the inside honey extraction and soap making!

King of the Road & All Abuzz at EAS 2010


Roger Miller’s King of the Road played on the tape deck. My sister, Meghann, was asleep in the passenger seat. We were shooting across Montana, heading for Oregon and the left-coast. It was August 2000. I was just 19; Meghann was 22 and she had recently finished her undergraduate degree. She wanted to take a trip before starting graduate school in the fall. The trip was one of a few I took as a teenager, and it cemented my love of road trips.

Melissa (wife), myself, and two of the three hounds (third-hound, Sarge, is not a traveler, and went to stay with a friend) piled into the Xterra with the travel trailer in tow; this was Friday, July 31st. Our first destination was Melissa’s sister’s house in River Falls, WI. The next morning, after a short delay, we headed east. Our destination for the day ended up being Lafayette, IN. The following day, we pulled into Boone, NC. Melissa planned on doing nothing but read and relax while in Boone; I planned on attending the Eastern Apicultural Society’s annual conference.

Days one and two of the conference were for short courses on various apiculture related things. My first course was an entry level course taught by Portland, ME’s, Erin Forbes of Overland Apiaries. The course was titled, "August to October: beginning the bee year" – at its basic, the course is telling beekeepers that the beekeeping year does not start when the nectar starts to flow in the spring, but it actually starts when you pull the honey and start to get your bees tucked in for the winter. Erin talked about an interesting use of nucleus hives, or nucs. It involves making a double nuc – side by side – under this, there is a double screened bottom board. The nucs get set atop a strong, 10-frame-wide colony. The idea is that the warmth from the colony underneath will keep the nucs warm and snug for the winter.

Tuesday was more of the same – short courses. They were not as interesting as Erin’s course on beginning the spring season the previous fall.

Wednesday was the actual start of the conference. I joined the majority of the conference goers at I.G. Greer Hall for a talk from Dr. David Tarpy, a leading academic on honeybees and colony collapse disorder. He is an Associate Professor of Entomology and the Extension Apiculturist at North Carolina State University. The talk was very interesting. I wondered, as I listened to David talk, how many of the people in the room without science backgrounds and without science-related undergraduate degrees actually understood the more sciencey aspects of the talk. Without going into great detail of the genetics portion of the talk, it came down to this: leading academic research is indicating that the majority of colony failure (whether you call it colony collapse disorder or something else) is caused by a weak queen. And, a weak queen is caused by a queen that has not mated with a significantly diverse and large pool of different drones. As a side note, it was really hard not to think of Appalachia and the stereotype of inbreeding when David talked about, in essence, a queen mating with a drone-brother.

So, as a beekeeper with the end goal of strong colonies producing strong amounts of honey, you want a queen that has mated with lots of different generically drones.

sunset near brushy mountain

Wednesday evening arrived, and we headed out to Brushy Mountain Bee Farm for a good-ole-Southern-B.B.Q. The hour drive in the high country of North Carolina was spectacular. Being a life-long flatlander from the Midwest, I am always amazed at mountains.

brushy mountain bee farm bbq

For the evening, I abandoned my newly-embraced-nearly-vegetarian leanings and dug into the southern b.b.q pork. They had a barbecued a full pig; complete with an apple in its mouth. It was by far the best pork I have ever had; no greasy fat-lumps, no random tiny bones; just really well cooked, smoked and delicious pork. Baked beans and coleslaw on the side, a glass of southern sweet tea, and it was one hell of a meal. Well done Brushy Mountain!

The rest of the week at the conference was so-so. I missed Friday, as we decided to head out home.

Greetings from Boone, NC

We seem to have arrived in Boone, NC, with all pieces intact. No photos, yet, but, with hope…soon. A recap of the trip here: we left Proctor, MN, on Friday, after work. We arrived at MJ’s sister’s in River Falls, WI. The next day, we called it quits for the driving in Lafayette, IN. We did the swanky thing of staying in Walmart #1543’s parking lot along with a few eighteen wheelers; lot lizards were of no bother to us. The next morning, we headed out – south bound and loaded down – as my cousin would say.

For all the guff Diane Sawyer tossed at Kentucky, and with having not had a huge interaction with the locals, I have to say Kentucky was a lovely state to travel through. The rural areas reminded me of my home area in Minnesota – the Iron Range. You would just as likely find locals on the Range with poor grammar, and poor hygiene, with a penchant for stripped down cars on the front lawn as you would find in Kentucky or Vermont. Kentucky…you are all right.

From Kentucky, we zigzagged our way between Tennessee and Virginia. Virginia was beautiful. Large, regal looking homes on huge acreage in the mountains; some with cattle and tobacco operations. We crossed into North Carolina’s blue ridge mountains from Tennessee; most of the valleys and peaks were really quite something for this flatlander of the Midwest to behold.

The bee conference, thus far, has been very interesting. If nothing else, I learned a great deal on management techniques for getting your hives though winter in the northern parts of the country. I will write more on this topic once I get a better internet connection.