Home is Where the Hive Is

Hive day!

Received an email from Aunt Bea’s earlier this week that they had a hive ready for me. A bit sooner than I was expecting, but took the day off to work on my future apiary, write a little, and pick up my new top bar hive. An apiary is just a fancy word for bee yard. Our yard is L-shaped, with our house at the base line.  My lovely wife agreed to a spot in the side yard where I once had a garden and is now a little overgrown, so I went out early to check it out.

Apiary View on Oct 17, 2014

Future apiary as seen from a nearby cherry tree (10/17/2014 9:00 am)

Early morning sun is recommended for beehive orientation, as is a water source, some protection from the wind and shielding from busy activity. At 9:00 am the front corner of my location had some sunlight, so an entrance can face the sun and away from our little road.  I’m planning to move the oriental grass to the opposite side to shield the hive from the road and provide some wind break.

Apiary View on Oct 17, 2014

Future apiary as seen from our nearby fence (10/17/2014 9:00 am)

That decision made, I spent the morning clearing some trees and branches from the area. Plenty more to do but lots of months to do it, so it was a good start.

This afternoon I am driving over to Aunt Bea’s to pick up the hive.  I was hoping my darling daughter would go with me, but she is busy with after school activities so I am on my own.  I’ll finish this post after I pick up the hive

pause here for dramatic effect

Well, I got it.  Had to deal with some D.C. traffic on I-66, but drove to the Fairfax, VA home of owner/builder John and picked up my hive.  The picture shows the hive sitting in my garage.  I’ll have to store it until the spring when my bees arrive.  John tells me that he’ll send me an email in January or February when the package bees can be ordered, and then he’ll pick them up for all his clients.

My Top Bar Hive

My new top bar hive with a viewing window open

Had a nice talk with John while I was there. I’ve been worried about pests, especially the varroa mite that many authors advise is difficult to treat organically.  John told me that he’s never seen a varroa mite problem in his hives, perhaps because the bees create natural comb which tends to be smaller than commercial comb.  We’ll have to see how they do where I live, but sounds promising at least.

I asked what problems he does see, and apparently small hive beetles and wax moths can be a problem, especially when a hive is heavily shaded.  He had a hive that was completely eaten by wax moths a few years ago, and he’s had one hive that was overrun by small hive beetles.  A healthy hive, he says, seems to fight off problems on their own, but some bees are weak because of genetics or the hive location.  Based on this, my sunny location in my side yard sounds pretty good.

He also shared that a group of 20 or so bumblebees entered one of his hives this summer, sending the bees a bit crazy.  The bees successfully fought them off, however, so all was well.

The origin of “home is where the heart is” is unclear.  A number of sites attribute it to Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79), who died at age 56 trying to save a friend from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius near Pompeii. Wikiquote states that  it was used in 1847 by Joseph C. Neal in “Singleton Snippe. Who Married for a Living”, Graham’s Magazine (1847), p. 166.

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