Today I’m thrilled to share some words and pictures from Kate of Foxs Lane on bee keeping. Kate and her family have several beehives on their organic farm at Daylesford and I wanted to share some of the real-life adventures of bees.
Some of our gang got strapped and velcroed and zippered into their bee keeping suits. We left no gaps at all for sneaky bees to fly into and sting, even taping on gloves and boots.
We lit a fire of pine needles in the smoker to placate the bees and went to inspect their workplaces.
We have about five bee hives scattered around the farm at Daylesford Organics. We mainly keep the bees to pollinate the fruit trees in blossom time, but of course we adore the sweet, sticky honey too. There is nothing better than a dollop on our porridge or toast. Some members of the family have even been known to eat it by the fist full.
And I guess an added and almost unexpected bonus of keeping bees is the lessons we are learning about them. Watching my girls dress in their suits and calmly go about their jobs while being slowly covered in the potentially dangerous insects. Their knowledge and understanding of where their food comes from. And their respect for these important members of our team and their understanding that at this time of the year, in autumn, we must leave most of the honey frames for the bees to feed on when the days are too cold to fly and there is no pollen around.
One day, half of the bees belonging to one of our bottom orchard hives suddenly gorged themselves on honey and flew on out of their hive. We weren’t around to see it happen, but according to everything I’ve read, thousands of bees leaving the hive at once is quite an incredible sight to behold.
Once they had escaped the hive with their queen bee, the swarm quickly found a temporary resting place in a nearby tree.
When we drove past on our way to school they were calmly waiting in a big bee cluster for their scouts to come back with news of a more suitable permanent hive.
Leaving behind half their colony and a new queen to take over is the hive’s way of managing their population.
Over the years we have found bee colonies living in tree trunks and other cosy, protected nooks and crannies on our farm, but this swarm, waiting on an easily accessible branch of a tree seemed very catchable.
So we waited until dusk and put on our bee suits.
Then farmer Bren held on tight to the branch holding the swarm while I cut it down.
Then we placed the swarm, still on their branch, on a white sheet right next to a new bee box.
And we waited and watched. And after a while we realised that the swarm was pretty comfortable on their branch and wouldn’t be going anywhere unless we helped them a bit more. So I picked up the branch and with one big flick, shook the bees off onto the sheet.
And then I ran away madly, terrified that they would go crazy and chase me. They didn’t. But farmer Bren said watching me run as fast as I could trying to escape in my bee suit was the high-light of his whole day. Pretty funny.
After that they quickly started crawling to the shelter of their new home. They looked like a slowly moving blanket rippling and creeping to the hole in their new hive.
And although we sat and watched quietly, we were also buzzing along with them. What a thrill to get up so close and personal with such an incredible creature. Part of me wanted to wriggle my hand deep into the middle of their mass and feel their movement, their texture, their weight. But the other part of me, the part that respected their potential danger and the fact that we had already tampered with them enough, won out and left them alone.
So now we have a seventh hive of bees as very important members of our Daylesford Organics team. And those worker bees certainly have their work cut out for them at the moment collecting nectar and pollen for their hives and pollinating our orchards and gardens and forests. And we’re a bit thrilled that we rehived them, and that they’ll continue working for us pollinating and making honey.
It’s another busy time at Daylesford Organics with more bee keeping adventures. Make sure to check out Kate’s blog here and the Daylesford Organics blog by Farm Bren here. And follow along on Instagram.