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Installing Our Bees from a Nucleus Colony

Honey - it’s the only food that will never spoil.

In 2017, Don and I began our apiary journey with just some guidance from family members. It quickly turned into a rewarding and fascinating hobby, and a staple of Rommey Farms.

On the surface, it seems a bee's daily reality is to forage and bring back to its home nutrients to provide to its offspring and continue to produce. However, we really only have a small window into the vague world of bees.

This year we purchased our two hives from John McMinn, our mentor in Hillsboro. Our nucleus colony (often called a 'nuc' for short) arrived in a wooden box that contained five medium frames. The five-frame configuration consists of three frames containing brood (In beekeeping, bee brood or brood refers to the eggs, larvae and pupae of honeybees) of all stages, while the outer two frames store the honey and pollen.

Our nucs have bees in all phases of life, including newly laid eggs (the queen will even continue laying eggs while the nuc is being transported), larvae and pupae. The adult worker bees represent all the roles - from nurse bees, cleaners, guard bees, foragers, and everything in between.  Quite simply, a nuc is a small version of a fully established colony. We placed our nucs side by side, making it easier to transfer the frames into the box.

Starting with one of the outer frames in the nuc, we tenderly lift the frame, using our hive tool if there is propolis involved. Propolis is a natural resinous mixture produced by honeybees from substances collected from parts of plants, buds, and exudates. The word propolis is  derived from Greek, in which pro stands for “at the entrance to” and polis for “community” or “city,” which means this natural product is used in hive defense. We keep then keep the frame over the nuc as much as possible and gently move it over the top of the beehive. We then insert the frame adjacent to one of the empty frames left in the hive. Making sure the frames remain in the same order, we then moved over the remaining frames. At the end of this process, our nuc officially became a ten frame hive.

Our bees get plenty of water from our drip irrigation system and the blooms from our veggies and wildflowers provide them with lots of pollen and nectar.  We also left our frames from last year out to let the bees clean out any remaining honey. 

Once transplanted to our garden, Don and I begin the tender task of working around them as we plant and harvest so they can begin their ritual of getting to know us. We like to open up the hives and check the them once a week, usually in the morning by 11:00 am, and let the weather determine what day. 

Beekeeping is a tedious labor of love, but we wouldn't have it any other way. The life lessons bees teach us about working hard, persistence, and community give us a good perspective on how we ought to live our daily lives. Because the truth is, if we can all work together and do our part, we reap the sweet rewards.

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