Bees and Beekeeping

2022 Flower Power Fundraiser update: A big THANK YOU to all of you who supported us through our Flower Power Fundraiser and personal donations to buy new bees for our farm hives. We raised over $700 – enough for 3 hives! Our next step is to clean up our hives and get ready for our new bees.

Beekeeping began at Strong Family Farm when our neighbor Jasmine Kermode started the project for her Girl Scout Award. Jasmine began working with Walt Moody, who initially provided the Farm with local raw honey and has become the Farm’s apiarist. In January 2019, RHS student Jessica Donovan became involved.

Walt taught me anything I needed to know about bees and showed me how to take care of them. While I had done some of my own research, I was a true beginner. I’d never had any hands-on experience with them, so this really was an adventure that I’d never had before. Beekeeping is hard work, but once you get started, you get the hang of it and find a passion that you never knew you had.

I visit the farm once a week, to once every other week. To take care of bees all you really have to do while they’re there is feed them until they can feed themselves. In the spring you provide sugar water with a ration of 1:1 (1 cup of water to 1 pound of sugar) until there is enough pollen and nectar being provided naturally that you no longer need to do this. I also look at the frames to ensure that the queen is laying eggs regularly and that there are no unwanted guests living inside of the hive. These could be mites, moths, or more pesky guests like wasps or mice during the winter. If there are some not-so-nice friends, such as mites, we have to give the hive a mite treatment. This removes the mites that are feeding off of the hive and allows the bees to continue to thrive.

If you don’t already have bees, you have to get them. You can try to get some either just by taking them from a home that’s accidentally housing them, or you can do what we did, and order a nuc or a package. I personally prefer nucs because the hives are pretty well off and they’ve already started on the frames that they have in the nuc they come in. A nuc is a box that contains typically five frames, and houses bees. You can order a nuc online, and then drive out to the farm/company you order it from to pick it up. This is where the real fun begins. The first time we picked up nucs, we were woefully unprepared. We were only picking up 1 nuc box, but it was raining, which bees don’t like, and we were wearing dark colors, which bees also don’t like. I was in leggings so I got stung all over my legs. Then, we had forgotten a sheet to put over the bee box, so we had to drive home with loose bees all over the inside of the car. We drove with all of the windows open. The next year, we were quite a bit more prepared. Thank goodness, considering we picked up 4 nuc boxes this year. 2 were for my own personal beekeeping, but the other two are the current hives at Strong Family Farm. To pick these ones up we brought nuc bags, which are essentially zip up laundry bags, and we put the nucs in them as soon as we got them. We also got sheets to put over just in case on top of this. We only had a couple of stragglers get out, and were able to drive with the windows up.

Overall, beekeeping is a really fulfilling and fun experience, and, if you can, I would highly recommend trying it. Some people just don’t enjoy it, but for those that do, it is an amazing thing to do. The Strong Family Farm bees are great, and I really appreciate that I got this opportunity and am able to do this as part of my school project. Just as a PSA, however, remember not to get too close to bees if you don’t have the proper safety equipment and are unsure of how to handle them. It creates an unnecessarily dangerous environment for both you and the bees. Instead, watch from afar and enjoy their busy attitude and work ethic.

Read more about Our Vital Pollinators.