Today I went out to the farm where I will be keeping my bees this year. I went out there to get milk but happened to see the owner working outside so we chatted for a bit. We discussed how as soon as the weather looks like it’s going to stay nice, I’m bringing my hives and such out there to find a good place for their permanent home.
The crazy thing is that the events of a few weeks ago could’ve completely undone my entire plan to keep honeybees this year. Let me start at the beginning…
Late last summer I was feeling very anxious to get this homestead up and running. The problem is that the Village we live in doesn’t have laws that support all of my goals. I’m very stubborn so I began to think of ways to have more than just a garden without any legal issues coming up. I’m friends with some farmers near here and they have huge pastures. Could I put some bees there?
I asked and was glad to see that the farmer was very open to this idea. In fact, it would be good for his garden and alfalfa fields. He just asked if he could have some honey when it’s harvested. No problem there!
First, Jillian and I took a class through the Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Association (SABA) about beginning beekeeping. It was an excellent class and I took tons of notes. We got catalogs and magazines and they let us do a honey sampling. Armed with my list of supplies I set out to get all of my equipment and bees.
When you order bees you can either buy packaged bees or NUCs (which is just short for “nucleus”). A package of bees are bees and a separated queen that haven’t started to build their colony. A NUC a basically a mini colony with bees in all stages of development. There are pros and cons to both, but generally speaking getting a NUC can give you a jump-start to the season, which is nice up here since the season is very short. The downside to getting a NUC is there is a significant cost difference instead of just buying packaged bees.
My mentor through SABA happens to be a friend of mine and she suggested I order a NUC through another member of the organization. He raises and sells NUCs and he’s well-liked and well-respected. Since I’m doing two hives I ordered two NUCs at $125 each. I should have them about two months from now. With that squared away, I made a list of the rest of the items I would need.
I had the original list from the beginning beekeeping class and then checked with my mentor. Starting up hives (especially two at once, which was recommended) isn’t necessarily cheap. You can’t get anything used that may have had bees on it, as you could have disease transfer that would destroy your colonies. I also wanted to be frugal and not get a bunch of excess tools and items I may not use.
We are lucky up here to have a great beekeeping store in Greenwich called Betterbee. With list in hand, I called up there one day to place my order, which I would be picking up that afternoon. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and when I arrived my order was ready to go and they helped me load it into my car. There are still a few things I may get, but I still have time.
Now, in addition to my own two hives, Philip Kilpatrick (Michael’s older brother) and I are going to be taking care of the KFF hives this year. We are aiming at 4-6 hives out there, and hopefully we will actually have some honey to sell at market this year.
With all of the supplies, bees, and anything else, I will probably have spent $1000 just getting this going. As long as the hives don’t get torn to pieces by a bear, or I don’t lose the bees to certain diseases, I shouldn’t have to keep spending as much each year. If my colonies get strong and I decide to split them in the future, I will just need to purchase more hive boxes and frames. (*Note: putting together wood frames yourself is very cheap but also very tedious and time-consuming; unless you are on an extremely tight budget just get frames that are already put together.)
As you can see, I’ve spent a significant amount of time and money getting ready for these awesome little creatures. I’ve been nothing but excited during these months since I knew I would be allowed to keep them somewhere. Until my husband asked one question, “Have you ever been stung by a bee?” Ummmmm….no!
Really and truly I never have been. The tricky thing about bee allergies is that even if I was stung as a kid, I could have developed an allergy now. Bee allergies can develop during life and can also get worse with each subsequent sting. I was going to have to get blood drawn and an allergy test to see if I was at risk. If the allergy was severe enough, I wouldn’t be able to risk keeping bees. Trust me, like I mentioned before, I’m stubborn and I considered the notion of going forward with it. Thankfully Philip is an EMT so I’d feel safe taking care of the bees with him, but I’m going to be completely alone when I am with my own bees.
Thankfully, after a long weekend of waiting, my doctor called to give me the good news that I’m not allergic. He did give me two Epi pens just in case though. He also gave me a course of action to take if I get stung and I need to bring out a pouch containing baby wipes, Benadryl cream, Benadryl liquid, and the Epi pens each time I go to check on the hives.
It’s amazing to think all of that planning could’ve been undone by something so simple. I’m incredibly grateful I’m not allergic, but also grateful that sometimes my husband has better foresight than I do.
Yesterday, while I was enjoying this freak burst of spring, a honeybee landed on my leg. She looked so tiny and I just stared at her for a minute, until she flew away. It was nice to see a bee out and about. I can’t wait to get the call that my NUCs are ready. Now I get to focus on all the other ins and outs that go along with keeping bees. Stay tuned!