Have Bee Suit...Will Travel



It was the end of the work week, and I was happy to be at home this Friday night, anticipating the weekend.

But we got THE CALL....

Stephen's cousin  reported that he had a whole swarm of bees in a tree on his property on McElroy Pike.

Whatever plans we might have had that night were altered. We HAD to get those bees!!!!

We were definitely on a mission.


Stephen got into his bee suit and we were off to the location of the swarm, at his couisin's home on beautiful  McElroy Pike.

Several people were hanging around there, interested in how those bees would be collected.  Finding a swarm right in your front yard is not an every day occurance, and knowing the value of finding one is even more rare.

Here is the swarm as we saw it when we arrived:


And here it is, closer:



A BEEautiful Day!

Today we got our bees!

But here's a little background...

My husband and I had been interested in bees for quite awhile since becoming interested in gardening. From everything we'd been reading/hearing, bees make a huge difference in the productivity of a garden. Many have died out because of pesticide use and varroa mites. It was also of interest to us that honey produced by bees feeding on plants in the vicinity of where you live can actually help with allergies...

As it turned out, Stephen's brother, Chuckie, had been interested in installing bee hives for years, and was most interested in partnering this project.

At Christmas this year, I made a move toward becoming beekeepers. My present to Stephen was bee hives (lots of assembly required), and he says it's the best gift he ever got!

The bee hives came unassembled in huge, heavy boxes. Here is Stephen discussing the hives with Mr. Bobby Buckman in our dining room. He put the hives together in our house this winter, and part of one is on the dining room table.


Today was the appointed day. The bees were in. Stephen and his brother, Chuckie, left Lebanon at 6:30 a.m. to go to Clarkson, Kentucky to the Kelley Bee Company to retrieve their two swarms they'd ordered. This photo only shows the main storefront, but both were impressed with how many warehouses full of bees and beekeeping equipment were housed at this site. It's a major beekeeping supply house, that's for sure...


Chuckie looks over the crates of bees in one of the store rooms. The crates are in bundles of six each, and are cut apart for smaller orders. We got 2 swarms. There were several local people at Kelley's today picking up their bees...besides Stephen and Chuckie, they noticed there were orders in from Chris Brady of Calvary and Joe Paul Mattingly. There were also several people they knew from Washington County who were there to pick up their bees.


Below are some of the bees at the first hive. It was certainly a brisk day to be introducing bees to their new home (translation: we were freezing to death!) The good side is we were able to get close to the hives without getting many bee stings!

bees in box.jpg

The bees keep reproducing themselves, and basically work themselves to death in about 6 to 8 weeks. This little fellow is not long for this world.












There was a small gathering of interested parties in attendance today, including my brother, Joe Mattingly, his son Kelly, the world famous Bobby Bailey (who was featured in the Courier Journal recently in connection with his company "Louisville Geek", and Jim Rutledge, Master Distiller of Four Roses Distillery. 



Here's Stephen in full bee keeper's regalia as he empties the swarm into the hive....


Here, we're all huddled around as Stephen shows my little nephew, Kelly, the intricacies of the hive. In case you all don't recognize me, I'm the one not in the picture, freezing to death and with camera in hand....


Until we have clover and other delicacies for the bees to feed on, they rely on a sugar water concoction that is mounted on the side of the hive. The hay is placed at the base of the hive to keep cool air out. The bees create warmth for their queen and the hive by fanning their wings and gathering smuggly up to one another.



Chuckie Brady and his sons, Bobby and Stuart, look on as he readies the Queen for the hive. It's my understanding that the Queen is encapsulated in that small wooden piece surrounded by a candy like substance. Her bees eat their way into the capsule to free her. The Bee Company dotted the Queens back in white so we could easily tell how important she was!



My nephews Kelly and Stuart examine the bees before they are put into the hive. There were 3,000 bees ordered per hive, and Kelley's gave us 4,000 bees for good measure.


Stephen is spraying sugar water on the bees before putting them in the hive. They come alive when sprayed!




Notice all the bees on Stephen as he empties the box from Kelley's into the hive. The only person stung today was me - just a peck on the cheek by one bee who was mad when Stephen had to re-open the hive to fix something that was not quite right. The sting didn't hurt much, but it did itch for a long time.


A Bee Face....notice that the bee's face appears to have a set of eyes in front that are not eyes at all...



Look at t he 'horns' on this bee!


APRIL 11, 2006....

Our bees have been in their new home for three days now.

I really didn't expect much change in the hives so soon, so I didn't even bother to go with Stephen tonight when he checked on them. 

I'm sorry I didn't go! The bees had freed their Queens and had already begun constructing honeycombs! Here is a picture Stephen brought home for me to see. He also brought the first beginnings of the honeycomb shown here, which we'll save...


Below is a close up of the first comb started by this brand new swarm, learning to work together in unison.

It didn't take long to get the perfect pattern down.

Charles Dadant, an early authority on honeybees in Europe and America said, "The cells of the bees are found to fulfill the conditions of an intricate mathematical problem. Let it be required to find what shape a given quantity of matter must take in order to have the greatest capacity and strength, occupying at the same time the least space, and consuming the least labor in its construction. When this problem is solved the answer is the hexagonal or six-sided cell of the honeybee, with its three four-sided figures at the base."

Another picture will be posted soon showing how both sides of the comb are constructed to intersect the centers on opposite sides. What's so fascinating is how these little fellows work indepentently on both sides of the comb -- in the DARK -- and are able to accomplish this mathematical perfection every time an individual comb is built. Where did they get this knowledge and how do they communicate it to one another?

Bees have been on this earth for over 30 million years. Even in the earliest fossilized records these combs were fashioned in the very same way. Again - where did they get this knowledge?

The Egyptians held the honeybee in highest esteem. Many of the Pharoahs were buried with honey and honeycomb as a food source. Believe it or not, after 4,000 years, the honey was still edible!




Wow! Easter Sunday and the bees are busy with the apple tree blossoms!

















And here we are at one of the hives, with bees coming in for landing. I was not able to photograph any of the bees with pollen on their legs, but there were many. They would fly into the hive laden down with pollen....this bee business is so fascinating!

bee landing2.jpg