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The Story

The Garden


Our dad is an avid gardener and bees are excellent pollinators. Our dad was really intrigued by bees after our grandpa (who also loves gardening) got bees for his garden!

We purchased our first beehive from Oxford Honey and Supplies in Woodstock in June of 2017.

The Bee Hive


A bee hive is a man-made structure to house a colony of bees. A bee nest is any natural house of a colony (such as a tree). There is structure to the man-made beehives:

  • the bottom boxes are called brood boxes. The queen lives and lays the eggs here - hence the name brood box because this is where the brood is raised. The bees keep about 50lbs of honey in the brood box to use over the winter.
  • the top boxes are called honey supers. This is where the worker bees go in and out of to store excess honey. This box is added in the spring (when honey production is high, thanks to flowers) and removed in the fall (when the flowers are all gone). This is the box we extract honey out of.

Our dad enjoys woodworking, so naturally makes his own beehives. The lumber and labour required for beehives is an ongoing and expensive part of beekeeping.

 

The Garb


A bee jacket, gloves, scraper, and a smoker.

In the beginning our dad would go all dressed up to check on the beehive, but over time, we've learned that bees are pretty docile (a sting is fatal to the bee). They are not fan of rainy and cloudy days, but when the sun is out, they are too busy to bother with us.

In our backyard, only our dad has ever been stung -- and that's because he tries to get stung (on recommendation from his allergist). As of November 2020, he is at 97 stings for the year. The rest of us in the house (3 kids, a mom) have never been stung by our bees.

Swarming, or our favourite subject: Math


Swarming is how a colony multiplies: a single colony splits into two. When a colony gets too large, the queen and half the bees leave the hive to start a new home. Bees have different roles in the colony, and when swarming, the "scout bees" go in search for a new home. The rest of the bees stay back to keep the queen safe. There are about 10,000 bees in this picture huddling around the queen!

Colonies can easily survive a spring swarm, but if they swarm in late summer or fall...then both, the new colony and the old colony will likely both die. Neither would be able to find enough food to build a supply of brood and honey.

Catching a Swarm!


One sunny May, our dad heard bees buzzing around in the garage. That is very strange since our bees are quite a distance from our garage. It turned out our hive had swarmed and these were scout bees looking for a new home.

We were able to catch the swarm by cutting the branch off and shaking the bees into an empty box of comb we had prepared. Once the queen is in the box, then all the bees were follow her in - some bees start fanning their wings to let the bees know that a new home is found! In the picture, the bees are just starting to walk into the hive after we put the queen inside.

And then there were...six.


Colonies multiply...and so have our beehives. We're up to 6 beehives now, roughly ~200,000 bees. Not all beehives make it year over year - sometimes they get robbed, get diseases, suffer a queen death after a mating cycle, or just aren't able to survive our bitter cold Canadian winters. We try to mitigate some of these afflictions by properly insulating the hives, growing queens (the smaller hives in the picture has no honey boxes, it's only to grow queens in case a queen dies), and ensuring our bees have enough food.

We are grateful for our neighbours who have bird baths (bees get thirsty and LOVE bird baths and fountains), plant and keep flowers that bloom throughout the season (especially early spring!), and don't mind these amazing animals in the neighbourhood.

Beekeeping started as a hobby to supplement our garden but it has made its own space in our lives. We may not be able to name every bee, but we celebrate every colony. We are grateful that you've chosen to support these pollinators and the planet with us.