When the BeeKeeper gets up on a sunny morning he first has a cup of coffee on the porch, dons his bee suit, and takes a pleasant walk out to the hives. Then he lifts the lid of each hive, says hello, pulls a frame heavy with glistening golden honey, replaces it with a new frame for the bees to fill, and bids them a happy day as he scrapes the honey into old fashioned glass jars which the BeeKeeper’s Wife labels and sells.
Did you enjoy that bit of fiction? Nice image of the joys of beekeeping, huh?
While there is great joy in beekeeping. There’s also a lot of work.
So I’d like to let you in on just what the BeeKeeper really does when he’s keeping his bees. I’ll post about that here periodically; when I get the opportunity to document what he’s doing. I’m often helping, but sometimes I get the chance to grab my phone and snap a few pictures provided my hands aren’t too sticky.
Somedays, the BeeKeeper feeds the bees. When we get good rain and things are blooming, it’s not needed. But during the long, hot, dry dog-days of summer, even if there are blooms, there’s not enough nectar. Bees need a couple of things: pollen and nectar. So, when it’s too difficult for them because of weather, the BeeKeeper feeds them.
He mixes a slurry of sugar and water and pumps that into 1 gallon feeder buckets that are placed atop each hive in such a way that the bees can come up out of a small hole in the hive box to access the bucket which has tiny holes drilled into the cap. They gather it bit by bit, which is better for them than being able to access it all at once.
It’s a great method and this is how it works: First, rinse and clean the buckets. Mix the slurry. Fill the buckets. Place the caps on them. Load them into the bee truck. Drive to all the bee yards. Pull the empty feeder buckets from the hives and replace with the filled ones. Repeat as needed. We have a lot of hives and many bee yards.
I help him prep the buckets in the mornings. Then he’s gone all day. During the heat of summer that means he’s out in the heat in a 3-layer bee suit, opening hives, upsetting bees (the gentlest beekeeping can still be upsetting), dealing with unexpected issues that may require heavy lifting, sweating profusely in large fields sometimes with little shade. Texas y’all.
Once, when I was helping feed, a very large bull crept closer and closer until he was a mere 10 feet from the BeeKeeper and not sure he was at all happy that we were in his field with his cows. Somewhat concerning (to me, the BeeKeeper ignored him) until the bull got stung on the nose and decided the herd should go to the other side of the field. Quickly. The bees know their keeper, thank goodness.
The BeeKeeper will be tired and dirty when he returns home at the end of a summer day, but also satisfied with a worthwhile job well done. He loves his bees.
Here’s a video to give you a better idea of the process.
Jana, The BeeKeeper’s Wife