I am a backyard beekeeper. Sort of. Our bees actually live over our front yard, on the second floor porch, just outside our bedroom. I imagine the previous owner of our home would be shocked to see that her beautiful little reading porch has been turned into an apiary! I know for certain that many people, out for a walk in the neighbourhood, stop and stare when they realize that just perched up above them are two beehives, all a-buzz with activity a good chunk of the year. But right now, the hives are almost silent. You can’t see the activity, but if I brave the cold and put my ear in close.... I can hear them in there.
This winter has been pretty kind to my girls. Russ wrapped them up with some foam tiles my Dad dropped off – with hopes that this winter, they will survive. They have shelter from the wind, but good enough ventilation that they will hopefully keep themselves warm and dry until spring. So far, so good. In fact, last week, during those freakishly warm days, they were out and about! Those girls never stop working. They took advantage of the warm sunny days to do some spring cleaning, in February. I should have been doing the same thing, but I couldn’t stop watching them. That’s the problem with having bees. They are always so interesting; to sit and watch them is positively entrancing. Their spring cleaning rituals entail dragging the bodies of their fallen sisters out the tiny doorway, across the porch and then off the edge to the floor below. What looks like carnage on the floor right now is really just the natural loss that happens as time goes on. It was great to see them, hard at work, alive and well, even as they hauled out their dead.
Like the bees, I am eager to welcome warmer weather. This time of hibernation, of waiting, is difficult for me. Just as I am desperate to get into my garden, I am more than ready to get to work with my busy girls. But, this time in between is important. They are waiting, and so must I. In the meantime, I am busy making preparations for my bees to move to a new home. We are planning to radically expand Bishop Family Bees because our honey has become so popular in town, and because I have found something I really love to do.
It is so rewarding, the art of beekeeping. Most of the time, I have no idea what I am doing, but beekeepers are a wonderfully supportive and helpful lot. You-Tube is also a handy tool. And I have a growing library of books about bees, bee products and beekeeping. There’s still so much to learn. Most of my research right now involves searching for places to put hives. Our yard isn’t the best spot for bees, and the porch can’t hold any more hives. We live in a fantastic area for raising bees, with the Grand River snaking through town and so many fields and forests. My big concern, though, is the neonicotinoid use in the farmers’ fields. I am in search of land where we can situate hives without worrying that they are being poisoned by the very plants that surround them. Some thoughtful folks in town recommended that I talk to local organic farmers. It would certainly be a win-win scenario if our bees could do some pollinating for them while they provide a safe home for the bees. I’ll let you know if that works out! And if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. While we still plan to be small-batch honey producers, my goal is to put thirty or so hives out in the countryside this spring. We'll see where it goes from there. I guarantee you that there will be all kinds of escapades and shenanigans as we figure out the logistics of expansion. Stay tuned to hear more about our adventures in apiculture!
Kari Raymer Bishop
Lover of Jesus, cheeses and tropical breezes... seeking balance in life, even as I embrace new challenges and chase new dreams. I am wife, mother, daughter and friend, as well as teacher, entrepreneur, activist, writer, beekeeper and hostess. Come along on the journey through my long-awaited midlife crisis!