Two weeks ago, we went to our first night of Bee School. What we learned about bee habits and feeding had us wondering whether, with our wooded property, we were a good candidate for a bee hive. After a site visit from Andy (one of the instructors) and a canvas of our holly tree population (bees love holly), we determined that we shouldn’t get a hive – we should get two.
Two hives means twice the chance for a successful colony. It means being able to compare hive behavior and habits. It’s means twice as much honey. The only downside is the money.
I have provided insect housing before, but this is the first time it has cost me. I’ve certainly paid to get rid of them, but never to put them up in the first place. They’ve come, of their own accord, to live in my pipes, or my collard greens, or my corn flakes.
Bees, though, aren’t content with stale cereal or household crevices. They need a hive, and hives are expensive. With the boxes, the frames, and the accoutrements, you’re looking at $250. per hive, easy. And that’s without the bees! You wouldn’t think it would cost so much to house something, which, left to its own devices, lives in a hollow tree.
Since we were looking at a bill approaching $500., I started scrutinizing the list of equipment, looking for anything we might be able to do without. There wasn’t much. The list was put together by the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association, and they tried to keep it to the bare minimum necessary for a new beekeeper to get started. Still …
“Do you think we need the bee brush?” I asked Kevin. A bee brush is a soft-bristled brush that you use to remove bees from a honey-filled frame so you can put it, bee-less, into the extractor.
“Of course we need a bee brush,” he said. “What are you going to brush them off with, your bare hands?”
“We could use the brush from the ice scraper we keep in the car.” I asked. “It looks just like it.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “The scraper brush is a hard brush.” He picked up the sample bee brush to show me. “A bee brush is a soft brush.” He brushed it on my hand to demonstrate.
“We could use it gently,” I suggested.
“It’s $3.95!” he exclaimed, with more than a little exasperation.
I gave in on the bee brush, but I’m sticking to my guns on the bee suit.
A bee suit is a full-body, white zip-up number that, with hat and gloves, is supposed to keep bees out. The full suit wasn’t on the BCBA list, but several people suggested that we get at least one, and preferably two. A quick Internet search revealed prices in the $100 – $200 range.
“It looks like a Tyvek suit,” I told Kevin, who was marginally more receptive to this suggestion.
“Tyvek suits cost six dollars,” I went on.
“They’ll be really hot in the summer, and I’m not sure I want to tend bees while I’m sweating in a Tyvek suit.” He was still skeptical. “Maybe bees can smell discomfort the way wolves smell fear.”
“I don’t think the heat will be that bad,” I said. “I’m at least willing to try it.”
“You are SO getting stung,” Kevin told me.
“I’m getting stung?” I exclaimed. “Why should I get stung? You’re the one who’s going to get stung.”
“You’re going to get stung because you insist on cutting corners on the equipment,” Kevin said, irritated. “Why do you think I’m going to get stung?”
“You’re going to get stung because you’re careless?”
“Honey, you’re covered with cuts and bruises you get from doing ordinary household chores. A few months back, you put a nail through your finger with a nail gun. Your nickname is Crash.”
He had to concede that there was something in that. My husband isn’t known for following, or even reading, instructions.
“Bees are different,” he said.
“And why are bees different?”
“Bees can sting,” he explains. And that, presumably, makes them scarier than nail guns, or chop saws, or boats. Oddly, I think we’ve found the one thing that scares Kevin more than it scares me.
We haven’t gotten the bee suit, yet. We won’t need it until April, when our bees come. And then we’ll see who gets stung first, the cheapskate or the daredevil. My money’s on the daredevil.