Today our new-found friend, Justin the beekeeper, finished installing some bee hives and electric fencing on a small corner of our lower pasture. It was an exciting time for us, and the bees. Our dogs were enthusiastic also, as they tried to figure out what all the hubbub was about. I know that they will be even more stimulated when they lay their inquisitive noses on the woven wire for that first, and hopefully last time, and receive that startling jolt from that fully charged car battery attached to the fence.
Hopefully, they will forgive us for that. If we could, we would tell them that the electric shock is really not for them. The fence is there to fend off the sweet desires of a wandering black bear. As we all know, they love bees and honey too, and tend to be a bit rough on hives.
Justin is a fairly new beekeeper, but he already knows a great deal about his craft. We know nothing about bees or beekeeping, so we learned a few things recently from him and some preliminary research. I think that I knew this and forgot, but honey bees are not native to North America at all. They were imported from Europe in the early 17th century and quickly disseminated throughout the country.
Justin installed eight hives, which for now hold about 5,000 bees per hive. I don’t know about you, but 40,000 bees is a lot of bees in our book. He tells me that the hives will contain about 10,000 bees per hive when they finish doing that “birds and the bees” thing. Go bees!
Apparently, there are many kinds of honey bees. Our bees are about one half Carniolan, or “carnies”, and the other half Italian honey bees. Both types are considered to be excellent honey producers, and resistant to disease. Both are also considered to be non agressive and gentle in their behavior towards the beekeeper. This seems like it might be a great characteristic, particularly if I were the keeper!
Justin tells us that at top production he might be able to harvest about 40 pounds of honey per hive, or about 320 pounds in a good season. That’s impressive. We traded him a little bit of future honey in return for keeping his bees on our land, which I believe will be a great arrangement for all concerned.
It’s a small corner of our property, after all, and we will not miss it. Our small apple orchard sits just above the hives, so the bees will no doubt help with improved pollination, and increased fruit yields and quality. Honey bees are the most important pollinator of apples, and vital to the health and vitality of an orchard.
So, there you have it. Hopefully, the bees will remain active, healthy and happy. We will have the tasty pleasure of homegrown and backyard honey, which will help us to do the same. And, we feel just a little more grounded to the earth, and more open to receive the willing bounty of the land. We welcome the small ones to our growing farm community, and we are grateful for a new friend. A bit of cooperative collaboration, like bees in a bee colony, can go a long way. A little honest barter, can’t hurt anyone either.
Perhaps you have a beekeeper near you who might be interested in a similar arrangement, and you can make a new friend or two along the way too.