017 – The Learning Yard

There sure is a lot to learn. About how the world works, about how honey bees work in the world, about how I might work in the world. That last one is a little intimidating; I haven’t got much figured out at all. But one thing that helps is to keep trying. Add a little here, leave a little something go, let something fail, try something new.

Early spring pattern of pupae in the top right, larvae in the cells that look empty, and honey in the cells with wax cappings.

This year at the home yard I brought six colonies through the winter, twice as many as last year. And I tried a new strategy: instead of stressing and straining my little colonies to grow and multiply in the chill of March, I waited. When the week came when I wanted to make early spring splits, I waited. And I waited until I had so many bees that I could borrow a bunch from each colony and they would never notice the difference. Then I raised a batch of queens, set them out to mate, and sold a couple nucleus (starter) colonies to a friend. And did not set my bees back in the least.

Waiting is difficult for me. But this year, my colonies were bigger, healthier, and happier. And they made plenty of honey for the bear-in-flip-flops.

Kasey is hiving a swarm from a bait trap into a managed hive box. Her veil is on backwards. We’re all learning.

Also this year, the county bee school assigned a couple new beekeepers to me as mentees. It is a very valuable program; there is only so much you can learn from reading books and attending classes. Even YouTube can’t provide a full-immersion, tactile learning experience with surround sound. Perhaps I am strange, but I always wonder how it will feel to do the thing that I’m learning about. And really, what better place to learn beekeeping than in someone else’s apiary, with their bees, under their supervision? And although I could imagine someone else’s bee yard being more … orderly … than mine, I do believe that my mentees got what they needed: each of them got to do themselves nearly every task that I do during the summer, that they will need to do next summer in their own yards.

Madeleine (10 yo) was taught to graft at BeeFest 2019 in Florida. This is her first attempt to do it at home. About 80% took.

So I’m proud of that. I’m learning, and they’re learning with me.

This is the honey from my home yard. May it fuel your learning: adding on, cutting back, allowing to fail, trying new. And Love Me Some Honey!