I’ve told you about how I got started in beekeeping a few years back, and I’m still here, so obviously something must have gone right along the way. Although I observed and helped someone before taking the plunge and did a lot of reading up on bees and beekeeping, I think my success the first year had a lot to do with Karma and the alignment of the moon and stars. Okay, not really, but if ever there was a case of beginners luck, I was struck by it like a hot lightning bolt coming from the sky.
First of all, anyone who has kept bees has been told that the first year is a building up year. If you are starting with new equipment and foundation, the bees will use most of their energy making comb and raising brood. Hopefully they will store enough honey to get through the winter, but don’t expect any surplus other than a few tastes while you are working on the hive.
Secondly, I’ve been told by many people not to get package bees. You’ll have queen problems, Italians don’t overwinter well, etc. This was all fine and dandy, but I had one thing working against me…. I was new…. Okay, make that two things. I was new and I was enthusiastic.
I had a plan, and that was to keep bees and have some honey to eat, some honey to sell, and I would make other stuff besides. I ordered 2 packages of bees because that seemed to be the way to go according to what I had read and was told. I talked to other people about bees, and in doing that, I had offers for more places to put hives, so I ordered more packages. I ended up with 5 packages on order.
I put two hives in my backyard, two at a place offered in Williamstown, and one where my son lived in Cheshire. Little did I know that it would be a banner year. The bees drew the frames out nicely. I put a shallow super of thin foundation on one hive and they filled and capped it perfectly, so I had a super of cut comb honey. As I put supers on the hives, they just kept filling them. It was as if the bees had read the same books as I had, and were following directions exactly.
My son Josh was working with me doing odd jobs so it was natural for him to help work on the hives. The only problem we had all season was one hive that swarmed in september, which was unusual around here.
When it came time to extract, my buddy Paul let me borrow his extractor. In return, I made him some bottom boards, shims, and triangular escape boards.
I was totally blown away by how much honey we extracted. The total came to just over 400 pounds! One hive produced over 100 lbs of surplus honey.
I thought to myself, “This beekeeping thing is a cinch”, and like anything else, when all of the pieces fall perfectly into place it can seem easy. But I can’t take all or even most of the credit. It was just one of those years when I got good queens and a Mother Nature provided a perfect combination of rain and sunshine.
In the years that followed, I’ve had my share of problems from mites to wax moths, bears to failing queens, and hives that haven’t survived the winter. But no matter what has happened, I can look back to that first year when I was struck by beginner’s luck, and know that this could be the year that it returns. No matter what happens, every spring I have that same wonderful enthusiasm and the feeling inside that this is going to be the best year ever. To all of you who are starting out, may you have that same enthusiasm, with a side order of beginner’s luck. Happy Beekeeping!