When our first colony of bees died this spring, we knew almost immediately that we would start again with a new colony. Though we’d only been at it for a year, we loved beekeeping too much to simply throw in the towel.
We started our urban beekeeping adventure for a love of honey, a commitment to environmental stewardship, and admittedly, a certain “that’s cool!” factor. And while we were smitten with our delicious honey, we had different reasons for starting anew: We missed the connection to nature we felt through our bees. We’d become fascinated with hive culture–the dancing, the definitive gender roles, and sophisticated communication. We craved that Zen-like state we entered when we quietly sat next to the hive, watching, listening, losing track of time. And to our surprise, our life without bees was, well, it rang a little hollow.
For those reasons and far too many more to list here, we were elated when we finally brought our new bees home from Burns Harbor, Indiana on June 4th. The first couple of weeks were similar to those we experienced with our previous colony last summer with one notable difference–we were more relaxed as beekeepers and didn’t go running to the Internet or our Dadant books every time the wind changed direction.
But right when we stopped expecting anything new to happen, these girls surprised us. This decidedly docile colony of Hoosier bees was growing fast–much faster than our first. Greg put the second brood chamber on after just three weeks (as compared to six weeks last summer) when he reported to me that the bottom chamber was “jam-packed-full of bees”, and the frames were teeming with brood and honey. We had never seen our hive so full before. I wondered, Had our new colony come close to swarming? “I guess it’s like moving into a furnished apartment,” Greg had said that night over dinner. “The comb was already built for them this time. So the queen was able to start laying eggs right away, and the girls got busy making honey.” It made sense, so much sense that we wondered why we hadn’t anticipated it.
It feels good having bees back in our life–our connection to nature rightfully restored. We can lose a whole hour sitting hive-side watching new bees learn how to fly and experienced bees return to the hive weighted down with pollen. What will they teach us next?