Dropping down to three hives

One of the questions I come back to frequently with bees is the idea of “being” a beekeeper or “doing” beekeeping. My mentor, Aleisha, did beekeeping for a few years before setting it aside to see where she really fit in. I still think it is a truly great thing to be able to walk away from such an intensive hobby (in terms of time, emotion, and money investments), and I take a great deal of encouragement in honestly answering that question myself.

This last Saturday, Mackay and I were out at the hives, and it just was not fun. It was work. In the purest sense of the word. Work. And we’ve been kind of feeling that way for a little bit of time now if we’re being honest with ourselves.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a friend like Mackay. A big part of that is that we can honestly and openly talk about virtually anything without fear or concern of judgement. It’s just awesome! I hope everyone has a friend like that somewhere in their life. As we’ve talked about the bees for the last few weeks and remembering that Mackay will likely be moving to AZ come December, we’ve come to realize that the biggest joy in beekeeping is NOT the bees. It’s doing it together. It’s sharing that experience, talking about it, spending that time as best friends.

That’s not to say that the bees aren’t high on the list and still enjoyable, but if we’re being honest, they are NOT why we do beekeeping.

So this year, we’re going down to just three hives. A few reasons for that:

  • We’re not quite ready to abandon it outright. It still has a place and is still something we enjoy.
  • Five hives was a lot of work last year, and the minute this becomes work is the moment this stops being fun for us. We’re hoping that three hives lets us continue on the fun scale without burning out.
  • Three hives fits better in my apiary. It’s a cleaner, smaller set up with more space to work and really get into the hives.
  • If/when Mackay leaves, I can handle three hives alone much more easily than I can five. Five is simply too intimidating for me to handle by myself.
  • And yes, there is an emotional association between beekeeping and Mackay. I’m man enough (we both are really) to admit that about ourselves. I’ll be the first to say that the first time I’m out there and Mackay isn’t won’t be all that fun of an experience for me.

On Saturday, I offered the equipment from my two empty hives plus the two packages I had already ordered earlier this year to another friend who has wanted to get into beekeeping. He said he’d take all of it, which both Mackay and I were glad to hear. We’ll get enough to mostly recover our costs, which is all we care about–This has never been about making money–and he’ll get started. We’ll support him as needed through this first year as well, which will be nice.

So there it is… I’m still not sure if we are beekeepers or if we do beekeeping. I think we’ll know for sure by September/October. If I had to answer that now, I think I do it. It’s an honest assessment even if it is one that’s a little hard to work through right now.

PS–A short hive inspection report:

  • 1 is okay. Not great, not bad, just okay. We saw brood and eggs. Last time we had reversed the hive bodies, so the queen is still roaming throughout the hives. We will need to figure out a way to consolidate that brood nest down to a normal size, and we bought queen excluders just for that purpose.
  • 3 is about the same as 1.
  • 5… Oh Moses…. 5 is fully supered. In April. And I’m worried that I’ll have to add more boxes soon or do a harvest. We opened 5 on Saturday, and every single box was full to the top with bees. Drones are in full production as well (drone comb everyewhere!), lots of honey, and the brood nest fills pretty much all three supers. It was an amazing sight. I honestly think I could split this out into 3 hives today if it weren’t for the cold. What a sight!


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3 Responses to Dropping down to three hives

  1. Emily Heath says:

    I know other beekeepers who give their hives away or sell them, because with swarms/splitting hives during the year it just becomes too much to cope with. Great that you’ve got such a good friend.

  2. I know what you mean. We have two hives, but could have had many more if we went haring around after every swarm. We do have to pump ourselves up for bee inspections. I like to think it is because we believe in “non-invasive co-existence with bees”, but it might just be that we are lazy. Great, honest post.

  3. Anonymous says:

    great post…glad you are still enjoying beekeeping for the most part! aleisha

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