Bees, bees, bees

Several years ago, my wife took a short beekeeping course with her mom. They tried a hive in their backyard a few times, but the colonies never survived. The hive sat unused for at least a year until last May when a swarm decided to move in.

A honeybee swarm congregating on an old beehive

I decided that I wanted to try my hand a keeping some bees. I couldn't start last year because we were in the middle of building the house. I spent last winter reading and watching videos as well as talking with my friend Phil who keeps bees at his place.

This spring, I set out several swarm traps - boxes that are ideal for swarms because they're cozy and smell like bees from old wax and some lemongrass oil as bait. Most forums say one in three traps is successful and I was hoping to catch at least one.

I caught three over the last month.

A swarm of bees on a branch of a bush.

I immediately fell in love with this work.

Watching these insects work is...overwhelming and humbling. The colony doesn't need me at all, but they don't mind the help. I'm allowed to peek in the box from time to time to make sure they're healthy. I can provide shelter and a safe place to build out a permanent home. In return, they'll pollinate the gardens nearby and share their extra honey.

A frame of bees working on brood comb.

As a new keeper, I'm learning their signals. I'm watching for behaviors that can tell me what they're doing and what I can do to help. This is a hobby of observation...and at the end of the day after dinner, sometimes I just go sit and watch and enjoy the hum.