I have always wanted to keep bees. I love their magical dances, quiet dedication to the greater good, their dedication to the queen and enigmatic communication that we humans don't understand. We have always worked on having habitat for native pollinators, who do need our help. And while some think bringing a box of bees into an environment is not natural, what the bees do when we "keep" them, it really pretty independent from us as much as we pretend to have control over the situation.
When we moved here I knew I wanted to keep bees. I was happy to see that the neighbors who have their permaculture forest guild wilderness across the road had a few hives down the road. I know most of the native plants and medicinals we plant are loved by both natives and honeybees, and we also planted two areas of orchard. We have bush fruit in the back orchard area - cherries, elderberries, nannyberries - and in the front orchard we have aronia, goji, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, apple, peach, plum, and serviceberry. We also have wild raspberries, mulberries, and blackberries. And, we have many other plants and flowering trees. Truly enough support and food for our pollinators.
So, of course as it goes, we installed bees when they arrived at the post office. We had everything ready to go, and we transferred them into the hive. As a new beekeeper, while I spent years reading about beekeeping, I have been reading ongoing now as well, so that I follow the season and know what to look for as I have been inspecting and checking throughout the summer.
I was a little nervous on my first inspection, but know that they can smell our fear, and so I focus on telling them how amazing they are, thank them for pollinating my plants, and radiate love. It might sound cheesy, but I do think that helps keep them calm. I do inspect suited up - I know some don't wear gloves or a suit - but I move with intention, carefully, and thankfully. The inspections have gone well all summer. I find what I should, I proceed through the hives, and I find the queen or evidence of the queen.
I know as I get more experience working with them, I will expand with more hives and probably experiment with different processes or setups. I love the idea of natural beekeeping, but know that with mites and other issues that can arise being so common, I should be a responsible beekeeper and do my best to keep them healthy before I experiment or try new things. So many long-time experienced beekeepers are losing their hives - or a lot of their hives - every winter, so I hope to make it through a winter.
Now that we are in September, I have checked the hive again and we will start looking towards preparing them for winter and protecting them from invaders looking for warmth and food. I am happy to finally be keeping bees, after dreaming of them for many years. Every time I walk the dog on the back acre I see our hive setup and am grateful for all of the changes we have made in the past year to get here. My whole family jumped in headfirst to get us to this new place, and our life is so different than it was one year ago. We overwintered successfully in this new place, now we need to get the bees through their first winter here as well.
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.