Revenge of the Beekeeper. A Tale of Three Hives

The best forms of revenge:

  • Forgive the person.
  • Being successful.
  • Living well and being happy.

A few years ago, through a few mutual friends, I gained an interest in beekeeping. I had read a few books and taken a class on beekeeping and advice from my friends on the traditional things a beekeeper needs. Some of the tools such as a smoker and pry bar tool made sense and they weren’t all that expensive. To purchase the Langstroth traditional square hives was a pretty expensive investment. The components that make up a hive that will allow you to harvest honey will cost over $350 each, and I wanted two hives.

After discovering how expensive two hives would be I had attended a seminar on natural beekeeping. Dr. Leo Sharashkin brought a Top Bar Hive. He discussed the benefits of keeping the bees in a more natural habitat, and that he built the hives himself at very little cost. I’m a little bit of a tree hugger at heart, so I liked the natural aspect. I’m also pretty frugal and handy with basic carpentry so I was definitely interested in building my own hives.

I looked at many different versions of Top Bar Hives, picking and choosing the components that I thought would work best. After two months of construction I had both my hives built and stained, ready to go out into the world to house my little pollinators.

I had purchased two bee packages. That is a shoebox size container with a queen and several thousand of her anxious subjects. You can read as many books or watch as many videos that you can find, they don’t prepare you for the unnerving experience of opening the lid on that box to put the bees into your new hive.

So the bees are in my two homemade Top Bar Hives. I had put a removable panel with a viewing window so I could watch their progress. It was an amazing thing to watch them build comb. The second week I viewed hive number 1, things were going well. Then I opened hive number 2 to discover that it was empty. Hive number 1 made it through the summer, but they didn’t make it through the first winter.

Discouraged, I wasn’t ready to give up on beekeeping. I found a local source that sold me two Langstroth hives and I purchased packaged bees from a different source. That was two years ago, and both hives are very strong. I will extract honey for the first time from those hives soon.

In the spring sometimes hives will swarm. This is something that the beekeeper can’t always control. Its sometimes due to overcrowding, or maybe the hive made a new queen. When that happens the old queen will leave the hive and sometimes take half the bees with her.

I had spent a lot of time building my Top Bar Hives, and I wasn’t ready to give up on the concept. But I had to make some changes. I made modifications to one hive so now it is a hybrid Langstroth/Top Bar Hive. The Top Bar Hives are more common in warmer climates, the supposed design flaw is that the bees can’t store up enough food for a long cold winter. My hybrid hive has a Langstroth deep box on top of the Top Bar Hive. This will allow them to store more food for winter and they’ll have room to move vertically.  It’s proudly displayed as the picture at the top of the article.

I was able to catch a swarm this spring and I’m happy to report they have filled the Top Bar section and they’re working on filling the deep box. Plenty of food for the winter.

I did get my revenge, but not by the Oxford Dictionary’s definition. Revenge isn’t always about inflicting harm for an injustice. I used the best forms of revenge.

  • Forgive the person. In this case I forgave myself for the decisions I had made that led to my first failed attempt at beekeeping.
  • Being successful. My attempts since the first failure have been very successful.
  • Living well and being happy. Three successful hives, very happy about that!

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