Many of our followers know that our solar gardens are a great habitat for bees with the pollinator friendly plants that have been planted in them, and are familiar with our bees on site that are cared for by Bolton Bees – but most people don’t know about our Connexus Energy employee that keeps his very own bees onsite as well.
Greg is our Manager of Construction and Maintenance here at Connexus and has been keeping bees for about 15 years. Once our solar garden was up and running and the idea to keep bees in the garden arose, Greg asked about keeping his personal bees there. He was granted permission and moved his hives in three years ago. Greg generally keeps two to three hives each year and typical honey production is 5 gallons (60lbs) per hive if it is a successful year. Sometimes only one hive will produce honey and he has even seen seasons with no honey production at all.
During the winter months, Greg wraps up his hives and leaves his bees in the solar garden. This spring, he was happy to learn that both of his hives survived the tough winter – however, one was not doing all that well so he combined it with the stronger hive. He also added two new hives this spring that are a new strain called Saskatraz bees; these bees are supposed to be Varroa mite resistant and prolific honey producers.
We asked Greg: “What is it like to be a beekeeper?”
Beekeeping has become very complicated and expensive over the past 15 years. You can no longer put bees in a hive – leave them alone – and collect honey at the end of summer. The bees have to be fed sugar water and pollen patties in the spring until nature provides a source. They have to be fed sugar water again in the fall to ensure they put up enough honey to survive the winter.
The bees have to be checked every 7-10 days to see if the queen is laying eggs or has disappeared, and to make sure they are not getting ready to swarm (find a new home). The hives need to be monitored to make sure there is enough space – but not too much – to prevent swarming.
Bees have to be checked for Varroa mites in the spring and again in the fall and treated with various chemicals if the Varroa count is too high.
The cost of bees has risen and if you are just starting out and have to buy all the hives and equipment you can easily have $500 invested in your first hive plus the cost of the bees. Greg doesn’t work with bees because he’s making money at it. He does it because he enjoys learning how thousands of bees and one queen cooperate to build a healthy hive and produce surplus honey that he can harvest. He also believes in doing his part to keep healthy pollinators in our environment.