Josiah is showing off some of his essential beekeeping tools. This antique early 1900s smoker was given to us by his Grandpa. Michael replaced the leather bellow with canvas and it works great again. The yellow thing is Josiah's hand is called a hive tool (I've got a funny story about that).
Josiah is using a flashlight to check his bees.
As usual, I'm going to tell on ourselves because as you all know we aren't perfect homesteaders who have it all together. If you all can learn from our mistakes, I'm thrilled!
The first 24 hours of beekeeping turned out to be quite an adventure, with a lot of lessons learned. In Michael's defense, he wasn't feeling well at all, therefore I think it was affecting his judgment. He went over the mountain to get the bees to strap them to our ATV trailer. When he got there, the gal we bought the hives from didn't have one of them closed up quite all the way, so half of the bees were out gathering pollen. That left us with only one hive to bring home. The second lesson he learned was that bees really DON'T like the color black (my husband's favorite color). Guess what he was wearing? Yep, black t-shirt, hat and sunglasses. He was thinking he could get away without suiting up, but since the other hives were open, they thought he was a predator and was promptly stung him just under the eye.
He moved the hive that was closed onto the trailer and strapped it down. Unfortunately the wheel barrings on the trailer are going bad, so those poor bees just about got their wings bounced off on that 50 mile trailer ride back to our house. When he got home, we realized the plug that keeps the bees in the hive had vibrated loose. Bottom of the hive was wide open. Not a bee in sight. we were both thinking all our bees escaped the hive on the freeway. So, heavy-heartedly, we moved what we thought was an empty hive to the place where we want to keep our bees on the homestead. It was chilly that day, and when Michael opened the hive, we found them all congregated together at the top of the hive (I'm sure quite traumatized from their journey). Whew!
That night, Michael took both kids out to put sugar water in the hive to hopefully keep them from swarming. That was his first lesson learned. Don't ever take both kids (and the dog) out to help at the same time! Hailey was in charge of the flashlight and you can imagine how steady an excited 7 year old could hold it. None of them were suited up. All was well until Josiah was buzzed next to his ear by an outraged bee as Michael was pulling the top of the hive off. Josiah dropped the hive tool in the middle of the bees and ran frantically screaming in circles. Michael promptly got stung in the wrist. All three came back into the house with their tails tucked between their legs while they waited for the hive to calm down so they could get the sugar water in the hive. Between giggles (on my part), we talked about staying calm, suiting up and proper beekeeping techniques that we had all learned about but apparently were not applying.
After about an hour, they all suited up and went back out there to try it again. This time, thanks to the smoker, Josiah was able to retrieve his hive tool and they were able to get the sugar water into the hive and the top put back on without further injury.
The next day, Josiah also learned that sitting next to the hive to do his homework in a dark shirt without a bee suit, to let the bees get used to him, was also not a good idea. He was stung on the ear and now has a whole new respect for his honeybees. Since then, Josiah has successfully medicated his bees, all while learning to move SLOWLY. He loves "his girls" and can hardly wait for his first taste of honey from his hive! Yeah!
I'm sure there are many more lessons to be learned, and we will be sharing them as we go along on this adventure.