No More Beekeeping for Me

For 21 years  I loved the bees.  Even when they stung me. Even when they swarmed. Even when they gave me no honey.

It wasn’t easy. I had little help at the beginning. As a 40-year-old new beekeeper, I was the young kid on the block.  The old men I found by searching far and wide, were tired and bent, although they loved talking about the bees.  It’s an obsession for those who do it. One old man talked to me about getting rid of his deeps (hive body boxes) and using only small and medium supers because he simply couldn’t lift the deeps when they were full of bees and honey.

I read books and when my colonies arrived, I hived them by the book.  I learned everything by reading and doing.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I bought my first extractor from W.S.  He had built it himself.  He’s the kind of guy who loves beekeeping.  Guys who like to weld or build  or tinker.  Unlike me, who did it because we needed pollinators for our farm. That extractor was a conundrum.  None of the screws were identical and it came with no manual.  Every year when I took it apart to clean it, it was a devil of a puzzle to put back together.  And heavy, too! But it worked well for many years.  I sold it to my neighbor, D.C. who was nonplussed by the enigma of it because he was that kind of a guy, too.

I bought my first extractor from W.S.  He had built it himself.  He’s the kind of guy who loves beekeeping.  Guys who like to weld or build or tinker.  Unlike me, who did it because we needed pollinators for our farm.  That extractor was a conundrum.  None of the screws were identical and it came with no manual. Every year when I took it apart to clean it, it was a devil of a puzzle to put back together. And heavy, too!  But it worked well for many years.  i sold it to my neighbor, D.C. who was nonplussed by the enigma of it because he was that kind of guy, too.  With the money I made from selling honey, I bought myself a Dadant 6 frame extractor that worked like a charm.

Dylan & T spin honey

I was also the only woman beekeeper.  I felt so young and beautiful with those old dudes.

Many farm interns were drawn to Three Roods because of the beekeeping offered here.  I enjoyed that part.  Teaching others what I knew.  The bees are fascinating insects after all.IMG_4701

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In the early years I tried every new thing I heard about.  I attended SEMBA meetings. When I learned that fall feedings were as important as spring feedings, I did that.  When I heard that black paper might protect the colonies through the winter better than straw bales, I tried that.    I planted mint around the hives when I learned that mites were repelled by it. Some times I just persisted in my old ways, like using the Boardman feeders rather than an inside feeder.

 

The bee club at Seven Ponds was the closest in the early days.  When I started, all the talk was about mite control; varroa mites and tracheal mites.  I used Apistan strips every fall and they worked for years. Then the bees built up immunity to them.  Colony Collapse Disorder opened people hearts to the plight of the bees. People who wanted to keep bees came out of the woodwork like termites.  We outgrew our bee club chapter in Richfield township within a few years.  Now our local chapter meets at Forest Township. We have 180 members and at least 50 come to the monthly meetings to learn from the more experienced among us.

 

Nowadays I am surrounded by beekeepers. I know of 5 beekeepers within a 5 mile distance of 3RF. Since bees travel up to 5 miles to gather nectar, I know our crops will be pollinated.  And I know where I can get pure raw honey without doing all the work. If farm interns come along who are keen to learn beekeeping, I know several people who would welcome their help and their curiosity.  A big thank you to those beekeepers who are carrying the torch forward.  I salute you.

 

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6 thoughts on “No More Beekeeping for Me”

  1. Robin, I’m sorry that you are hanging it up; helping you out last time I was there was just incredibly exciting for me. But I’m happy that there are so many apiaries nearby, that the farm won’t suffer at all. Love to you, Greg and the girls (whoa-men!)

    1. Hi Benjy ~
      It’s been fun for me, too.
      I’m glad you were able to have that experience here. Come visit us again sometime.
      Love to you and your family ~

  2. Hello,
    I really enjoyed your writings of your experiences of bee keeping over the years.
    Do you have any bee keeping equipment you would be willing to sell me. I moved to Richfield twp last fall and am trying to fumble through getting started with bee keeping. My family is going to try to plant vegetables and fruit trees as well as chickens on our humble 3 acre plot. I too am starting late as my wife of 20yrs and I are in our 40’s. But our love for working the land and reaping the rewards of hard work flows through both our veins. The nice thing though is our 3 children are hardworking teenagers that will be doing most of the heavy lifting. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you
    The Brewers
    Todd, Beverly, Zach, Jack, and Holly

    1. Thanks for your letter, Todd. The desire to have a small farm homestead springs eternal. I’m sure you will learn much as you go. If your children are as willing to help as you suggest, you will certainly succeed. I have a few books and beekeeping items I could sell you if you’re interested. Why don’t you come out to the farm and I’ll show you what I have. I’ll be home Saturday all day.

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