Beekeeping {in minnesota}

This upcoming summer will be our 3rd year TRYING to keep some bees alive. If you recall, we bought a nuc from a farm in Wisconsin back in 2015 - Dan even made a sweet video of it all! This last year we finally were able to reap the beekeeper benefits and had a BOUNTY of honey. I thought it would be fun to check in and answer some FAQ on beekeeping! It's such an interesting topic, and honestly we are still learning over here - bees are so fascinating!!! We are excited about another year coming up of beekeeping, and have purchased a second hive! Fingers crossed our OG girls will make it through winter and they can be neighbors! Now, onto the FAQ:



A LITTLE BACKGROUND PLZ?
Check out the tab up top "The Hapiary" for more on the 'why' and how I got into it!

IS THERE ONLY ONE QUEEN?
Yes, typically. There can actually be two, if one is grandma status and one is a fresh baby. Some hives will keep both on. Typically however, once a queen isn't performing well enough the rest of the bees will kill her. It's called 'cuddle death' because they attack and suffocate her until she dies. ALL THIS after she spent her life GIVING them life. The audacity. The queen is the only one in the hive that lays eggs. Worker bees (also female) CAN lay eggs, but they are unfertilized. So they come out as Drones (more on those guys later).

DOES THE QUEEN LOOK DIFFERENT?
Yes! She is larger and longer with shorter wings. She blends in well so you need an eagle eye to spot her at times. Some beekeepers will tag the queen with a spot on her back to make it a bit easier. Can you spot her below?!


WHAT IS A DRONE?
A drone is a male bee. They are larger in size and protect the hive during the summer months. The queen will start laying drone larva in the spring, and taper off in the fall. Once it starts getting cold out, the girls kick out the boys and leave them to die so they have more room and more resources (honey!) to get them through the long freeze. You can see below some of the capped larva is protruding up (on the right side mainly) making a little dome around the honeycomb...those are drones!

The worker bees determine if they need more drones or worker bees in the hive and make the honeycomb size accordingly. Then, when the queen backs into the hole to lay an egg, she can tell the size and will lay a drone or worker bee depending. ISN'T THAT CRAZY. 


WHAT IS A SWARM?
A swarm happens when the queen is feeling too cramped. If there isn't enough room for her to have the lavish lifestyle she craves. What will happen is, she will take half the hive and go find another house (like, the joists in my parents deck - check out this post for THAT whole story!). The other half will hang out at the hive and produce a new queen to rule them all. It's best to prevent a swarm by making sure the queen is happy - adding more hive boxes throughout the summer months.

HOW DO YOU EXTRACT HONEY?
The first time we extracted honey we tried the 'ol fashioned way. We removed the wax coating on the comb and tried to let the honey drip out. No dice. So then we cut out all the wax to filter out the honey. It worked, but we didn't want to keep doing that going forward because then the bees would need to rebuild the wax each time we wanted a refill. On our second run at it, we bought a small extractor that fits 2 frames. Using this, we cut the wax coating off, then spun them in here and VOILA the honey comes out. We then filter that out to make sure the honey is clean of all the wax/pollen and then WE EAT IT BECAUSE OMG YUM.




HOW DOES A BEE BECOME A QUEEN?
Not your typical democratic election. When a hive needs a new queen (either through under performance, death, or swarm) the bees look to the most recently laid larva. They pick out a few fresh baby larva and feed them Royal Jelly. You can pick that up at your local grocery store. JK GUYS. Royal Jelly is fed to all larva for ONLY the first few days. However, queens get them until they cap off. Bees will feed a few larva this and allow them to all turn into queens (usually 3-4) to raise the chances that one works out. See below for what a queen cell looks like:


When the queen is ready to hatch, she comes out of her cell (eating her way out). As queen, her first job is to KILL the other queen cells. Last woman standing wins. LOL Hunger games style. Then, once she's the token queen, she goes on her mating flight. She heads out of the hive and mates with as many drones as she can. After her few days out partying, she spends the rest of her life laying the eggs she fertilized on her mating flight.

In the photo below you can see the three different types of capped larve. At the top, the flat ones are worker bees (girls), towards the bottom of the frame you'll see a few with caps that balloon above the frame - those are the drones. The last is at the bottom, covered in bees and a little hard to see. But that's a queen cell. The guys surrounding it are little nurse bees. Their job is to tend to her majesty the queen.



HOW DO YOU NOT GET STUNG ALL THE TIME?
The first two years I was a beekeeper I didn't wear gloves. Beekeepers typically don't because they are more careful that way, and don't accidentally squish a bee with the added fabric. Over those two years, I was only stung 3 times. All 3 times were my fault, I placed my hand on a bee in the WRONG area - dat booty. Unfortunately, after those stings, my hands were outta commission for a little over a week (more on that below). So I've since started wearing beekeeping gloves, and have yet to be stung.

The bee suit and veil is usually less of bee-sting prevention, and more of a - keep them out of your eye balls and from going up your shirt while you're checking the hive - move. The bees have never become aggressive or hostile while I am checking them. Bees won't sting until they fear the queen is in danger, then they will attack. So, when you're out sipping on bon bons and a bee comes around, just let it chill. It's probably hungry and will move along in no time. If you swat it or aggravate it, it'll likely fight back and take one for the team (queen). Because, when a bee stings, it dies.


HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO KEEP BEES WHILE ALSO BEING ALLERGIC?
I'm not TECHNICALLY allergic to bees. Having a bee allergy means that when you are stung you need to be rushed to the hospital. When i'm stung, the entire area around it becomes V inflamed. My hand grew twice it's size once, which is quite uncomfortable. My mom has had the same reaction. There is evidence that by getting stung regularly you can become less prone to reactions - however I'm not about to test that theory.

The best thing to do when you get stung is to remove the stinger by flicking it out with your nail, and washing it with soapy water ASAP. Then add ice. It (typically) won't really hurt for a few hours, but ICE IT. Take some Claritin, apply some itch cream and DON'T scratch it. Trust me.

IS MAHONMADE HONEY AND HONEY BUTTER SOLD IN STORES?
If you were one of the lucky friends or family you may have received some honey, honey butter, or creamed honey over the holidays. Congratulations to you! While MahonMade products are not sold in stores, we hope to be selling to the masses this year! Stay tuned for more on that!


DO BEES HIBERNATE?
Sort of! The queen tapers off her laying through the winter months, and the bees feast on the food they spent all summer collecting. They huddle in a small ball in the hive to stay warm. Bees rotate from the center of the ball to the outside to keep everyone warm throughout the winter.

On a warm winter day (50-60 degrees) if you see dead bees outside of the hive - it's a good sign! It means they are still alive and just did some spring cleaning inside.

HOW DO YOU GET THEM THROUGH THE WINTER?
Before the deep freeze sets in and temps are staying around 50-60 degrees we start to winterize the hive. We make sure they have enough honey (2 large hive boxes full), and we make sure the hive entrance is reduced. Then, we cover the hive with a layer of cardboard. This is mainly to keep strong winds from entering the cracks between the hive boxes. The ladies do the rest to keep it warm and toasty inside!


WHAT ARE YOU DOING WHEN YOU CHECK A HIVE?
Every 7-10 days in the summer we (my mom and I) check the hive. There are a few things we are looking at when we check, but the main item is making sure the Queen is still alive and has enough room to keep her cool. We make sure there are open cells for her to lay, and that she's laid within the last 3 days (or, if we're lucky, we actually spot her). We know if she's laid within 3 days if we find little baby larva. It looks like a tiny tiny white line inside the honey comb. This larva below, is older than 3 days, but you can see the progression from little baby, to large larva, to capped (right hand side) larva. The top left corner is capped honey.


FASCINATING huh?! #THEMOREYOUKNOW! Have more questions?! Comment below and i'll add them to the next round!