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Back in the Bee Business

In the spring our bee hives were destroyed by a bear, which was hungry for honey. We tried our best to pick up the pieces and put the hive back together but that night the bear came back and smashed the hive apart again, leaving us with nothing. We were really sad to have lost our hives and hope that we could maybe buy a few new hives. Unfortunately many bee keepers in Ontario experienced hive loss over the winter. Meaning new supers were extremely expensive and hard to find. We were unable to find anyone to sell us a few new supers to start up new hives, so we sadly concluded that we would have to wait for next year to get back into bee keeping.  However, a couple of weeks ago our Aunt Cathy from Nature’s Bounty told us that there was a bee swarm in her apple orchard. She wanted us to come and catch it because she is allergic. It was a win, win situation we got a new hive and she wouldn’t get stung.

Bee Swarm in Apple Tree

Bee Swarm in Apple Tree

Catching a bee swarm is exciting business. We had to go to her orchard, suit up in our bee suit and then cut the limb down and place it in a box carefully. Then seal the box up and bring it back to our farm to put in our bee hives. All while not disturbing the bees too much so they stay calm and in one group and don’t get angry and sting us.

When we got to Nature’s Bounty we were excited to see how big the swarm was on the tree. The bees had formed a massive ball on the apple tree. Bees swarm when they are overcrowded in their hive or the conditions are no longer ideal so they go in search of a new home. The bees form the large ball around the Queen to protect here, as she is vital to the survival of the colony.

Al looking a Bee Swarm

Al looking at the Bee Swarm

Once we got the bees into the box and sealed it up with hi-tech equipment like electrical tape, we drove them to there new home on Willowtree. The easy part appeared to be over. Now we had to figure out how to get all the bees into our hive without losing the queen or injuring the bees. We called our bee mentor who suggested we shake them on the bee boxes and them leave them for the day so they move down the boxes and then at night when all the bees are in put the lid on. So this is what we did, but we were completely shocked about how many bees there were. By the time we were done we had a mound of bees and a cloud of them flying around us everywhere. So we left to let them settle down and make a new home of our hive.

 We are excited to be back in the bee business. They are really interesting organisms to work with and with the added bonus of getting our own honey.  Bees are also extremely important to have on the farm for pollination. Especially for our pumpkins and squash which require multiple visits during the time the female flower is viable to achieve pollination. Ideally each flower requires approximately 15 visits to produce a good-quality fruit. The higher the number of visits to female flowers, the great  the fruit set, fruit size and weight, and number of seeds. Which means having healthy bees is extremely beneficial for our farm.