Saturday, April 30, 2011

Honey Bees get a new home.

After a rather long, confusing ordeal with the Madison County Zoning Commission, it has been confirmed that we cannot keep our Honey Bee Hives on our property at our home.  I makes no sense, considering that the City of Troy permits Beekeeping on city property that is zoned "Residential".  The City of Edwardsville also permits Beekeeping on city property that is zoned "Residential".  Go figure, huh?

We are not in the City "proper" of Troy, but I can throw a rock in any direction from our property and hit City property.  Yep, it makes NO sense!

All was well at our present location, after we discussed our intentions to keep 2 hives.  Well, all WAS well until a meddling, alcoholic neighbor placed a call ranting to the Madison County Zoning Commission.  At first, they said Beekeeping was fine at our location.  Then, we received a letter saying we needed to obtain a "special use permit" to keep the bees.  We prepared our defense, and applied for the permit, only to talk with someone else from the Zoning Office, who stated that we cannot apply for the permit, because we are not zoned for it.  Long story short........there are very few people that work at the Madison County Zoning office that know anything about the details of zoning ordinances in Madison County!  Our tax dollars at work, as usual!

So, we will be moving our Honey Bee Hives about 3 miles away, to property Angie and I own that IS zoned for this use.  The problem is solved, but the fight is far from over.  We are embarking on a mission to get the Madison County Zoning Ordinance changed.  It may not help us, but it will help others in the future, and we feel it is the right thing to do.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the system when folks are allowed to keep Bees in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and many other places more densely populated than Madison County, Illinois.
They even have a Honey Bee Hive on the south lawn of the White House!

The challenge has begun, and we won't stop until the ordinances are changed for the better.  The Madison County Board likes to use politically correct phrases like "Sustainability" and "Go Green".  It's one thing to "talk the talk", but we intend to see to it that they "walk the walk".  Honey Bee survival is at the very core of the sustainability issue.

All will be fine with our Honey Bees at their new location.  I will keep our Blog updated as this moves forward.  There is much work to do, and the process will be long, but Angie and I both love a challenge, and look forward to putting unfounded fears to rest, and change some minds regarding the importance of Honey Bees and Beekeeping!

In's GAME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

At last........WE HAVE BEES!

After a rainy, 6+ hour road trip to Fairmont, IL this morning, we arrived home with our first package of Honey Bees!

These little Italian Honey Bees are a very pretty Bee, and they are known for being a relatively docile bee to work, and for their productivity.  We managed to dodge the rain long enough to get them placed in the hive, and with the sunshine this afternoon, they are busy taking their orientation and cleansing flights.  Bees don't poop in their hive, hence the "cleansing" flights.  Honey Bees have a built-in GPS navigational system, and after being introduced into a new hive, they will spend some time taking these orientation flights.  This helps them locate the hive, so they know exactly where they need to go when they return home from their foraging flights.  It is interesting in that you can have several hives within a few feet of each other, and even though the hives look identical, the bees from each hive know which one is home, just by this GPS instinct.  They really are amazing little creatures!

Here is a photo of Angie dumping the package of bees onto the frames in the hive body:
Here is a close up shot of the bees falling from the package, and beginning their new life in the hive.  They are laying on top of the frames, which are plastic frames with wax coated foundation.  The wax coating helps the bees get a start with drawing the wax comb, which will be used by the Queen for laying eggs.  This brood will enable the colony to build up bee population, so there are plenty of bees to forage, and support the various tasks inside the hive.
Here is a closer shot of the bees on the frames, before they settle in:
An finally, a shot of the assembled hive, with the new bees safely inside:
There are always a few straggler bees left inside the package after you do all you can do to shake them into the hive.  The open package is left in front of the hive for a few hours, and any remaining bees that weren't shaken into the hive will smell the pheromone from the queen, and enter the hive.  After a couple of hours, all bees are inside and safely beginning their new life in our backyard! 

All in all, this was an amazing experience and we are very happy we decided to start keeping Honey Bees.  I look forward to sharing more on our Blog in the days ahead.  Thanks for stopping by for a look!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hive Stand ready for action.

With the arrival of our packaged bees scheduled for April 16th, it was time to get into gear and construct a hive stand.  Getting the hives off of the ground is helpful in several ways.  One, it provides better ventilation, and it also helps save your back when working the hives.  It looks good too, which is a plus if you are going to have hives in your backyard!  I built the hive stand using treated lumber, and it should provide years of low maintenance service.

Here is the area after the sod has been stripped, and the first support blocks are place and leveled.  This area is about 10' long, and 32" wide.

After some design thoughts, I went to the shop and constructed the hive stand.  The stand frame is 2x6 treated lumber, and 4x4 posts were used for the legs.  A full hive, with several medium supers full of honey can weigh several hundred pounds, so you have to build for strength, that's for sure!

Here is the completed hive stand.  It is 8' long, and 20" wide.  This should support the bottom boards under the hives just fine.  I added a stringer at each end for side support for the bottom boards.  This should comfortably and safely hold 4 bee hives.  Our plan is to have 3 or 4 hives at the most, so we are good to go!

After getting the stand set, and making sure everything was level, all that was left was to add mulch around the stand, and clean up the mess!  Here is the finished product, ready for hives and bees!

That about takes care of the preparation before the bees arrive.  I'll get a hive assembled and placed on the stand for my next post.  Then............all we need are BEES!!!!!!!!!!!