I got bees in July 2012. For several reasons: the honey, the pollen to help my allergies, and to pollinate my plants garden or orchard.
I had belonged to bee forums for years and learned a lot.
I spent the day with the guy that I got the two beginning hives from, and he showed me a lot... too much to absorb in one day. But it was a long drive and I couldn't keep returning.
I watched youtube videos on beekeeping... boy was I dumb even after all this.
It just never occurred to me, that bees can starve in summer during a drought... hey dummy no blooms, no honey, no food... why didn't I think of that?
One hive was really small so I fed that one, so it would grow... but not much. At least, I fed it enough to keep it alive. That changed and we fed it from then until spring 2013 showed they were capping honey.
In May 2013 we got two starter hives off of this hive, both are alive and well today.
In August a swarm was threatening. So, I split the hive 50/50. One for hive A and one for hive B for everything in it. I watched both hives until I was sure there was a queen in each.
Then I don't know, laziness, cold weather, holidays, I just didn't check on them enough, and when I did I somehow didn't even open the newest split.
But, Saturday I did check them, that is when I found the nest. And woke the bees up.
In cold weather the bees cluster up and shiver to make heat, they rotate who is inside the cluster and who is outer edge for insulation. The queen is in the center, the goal is to protect her at all costs.
Well, the bees still eat and keep her warm, but they aren't alert, they don't move much and they didn't know the mice were in there.
The mice find it warm with honey, comb and bees to eat, heaven to them, as long as they leave before the bees wake up.
Well, I woke up the bees, hubby removed the nest. Sorry still too girlish to touch a mouse nest!
Boy, those bees were grouchy, not ready to be awakened. And then to wake to someone looking at them, and invaders in their house... not happy at all. I really can't blame them.
The mice ran off, I am sure they got at least a few stings, especially the one that stayed in there a good 10 minutes after we woke the bees up.
In about an hour I went back out there and placed a pollen patty and a sugar patty on both hives, just to be sure they weren't hurting for food like the other one.
But, honestly, the other split had no flying bees when I split them, all the flyers went back to the original hive, so they lived on stored food... no time to collect much food when the bees got old enough to forage.
Anyhow, we left the bees alone, and yesterday, Monday, I was cleaning up the dead hive, giving back what I could to the live hives, and melting down the honeycomb. Well, the hive that we woke up was very active with bees coming and going.
I sneaked a peek in, and they aren't overly interested in the food I gave them. So, at this point they really don't need it. At least it is there and will keep.
Due to beekeeper error in starving the hives in 2012, and splitting so many off of the surviving hive, I haven't collected any honey or pollen at all.
I was afraid of the bees, not anymore, but I respect them. I only got stung 3 times so far.
It sounds crazy, but they have personality. They get to know our truck and they hitch a ride home if we visit neighbors, but don't ride on neighbors vehicles. When not rudely awakened, or their house moved a lot, they are actually friendly. I have Minnesota Hygienics which are gentle bees anyhow.
Even with my mistakes, there are now three healthy hives from the surviving one. I gave one of the May splits to my son and it is doing well. I had to give him more bee babies and honey in August, but that boost got them going good.
I plan to split one, and harvest honey and pollen from the other this year. They are set up in my garden. Sometimes they crawl on me if I get in their path but they don't sting, unless I hurt them, or or wake them early!
Today, I am cutting hardware cloth for the front, 1/4" will allow bees in, and keep mice out.
I love my bees, can't imagine not having them! And I have harvested nothing so far.
If you are going to get them, get them early, not in July... and if drought or new split... feed them!
I say try it... I want an observation hive in my house that vents outside, so I can watch them, they are so fascinating. We go and just sit and watch them fly in and out and the challenges of other bugs arriving etc.
For us it is relaxing... shade tree, rocker, ice tea, and bees hard at work.... aww this is life!
Talk to your plants.... If your plants talk to you... Run!