Our Beginning with Bees

Pollen covered Bee
This amazing photo courtesy of PDPhoto.org
After a year of humming and hawing about getting bees I’ve finally decided to take the plunge!  Last spring I went through a WSU extension certification course on bee keeping and wasn’t sure that I wanted to take on a new hobby at the time.  I passed the exam and received a nice certificate (and cute bee patch might I add) but still didn’t feel very confident… I think I was too worried I’d hurt them or they’d hurt me.  After doing some more research and talking to more beekeepers I realized I needed to get experience and one way to do that was to just get started.   So, we went out to the local aviary supplier and got some good information and a brand new hive!  We need to paint the exterior of the boxes (pics to come), then get the foundation/frames and our Italian bees (+ a marked Queen)!  In the meantime I will be reading up on the little critters and getting our site ready.
A few things I’ve learned:
-Don’t wear fragrance or use fragrant soaps around bees – they love it, especially flower scents!
-My localized reaction (painful swelling) from stings could have been due to my Ibuprofen use from playing roller derby.
-Due to contamination issues in beeswax (from chemicals, grrrrr…) we will be using wood frames with plastic foundation for the bees to draw their combs on.  If you use too much plastic they will use their propolis and expressively glue everything together… which could be good for candle makers.
-I need to join my beekeepers association.. but apparently all beekeepers have different opinions and the only way they will agree on something is when they find that another beekeeper is wrong!
Links I’ve found that I will probably be referring to:
Beekeeper Resources WSU
Beekeepers Calendar – NWDBA
What’s Blooming (plant list) – NWDBA
Beekeeping tips for beginners, -MU Extension
If you keep bees, please feel free to suggest more links that are helpful to you!



  1. I’ve been keeping bees for about a year now, and I almost never stop thinking about them. They are the most interesting hobby I’ve ever had. I would expect I’d grow out of it, but I know people that have been keeping bees for decades and still feel the same way. There’s just something about them.

    You’re right that beekeepers have a lot of conflicting opinions. It is often really confusing at first, but you learn to trust your own knowledge and instincts at some point. The thing about bee keepers is that they are really helpful and friendly. I really like the Backwards Beekeepers. They are based in Los Angeles, so a lot of their information is completely wrong for our climate, but I generally consider them to be a font of knowledge when it comes to organic and natural beekeeping. Their fearless leader is Kirk Anderson – you can find him on tumblr, twitter, and flickr. He’s good at social media, but he’s also a really friendly, approachable, helpful person with a lot of opinions and experience. I have emailed him with questions a few times, and he responds personally and quickly.

    Joining my local bee club saved me a few times in my first year. I made a few friends and they assigned me a mentor. When my bees swarmed and I had no idea what to do, someone lent me an empty hive. When I forgot to buy a feeder for my new package, my mentor lent me one. Sometimes you need things you can’t anticipate, and there’s enormous value in being part of a community. It’s like a metaphor for the beehive.

    I could talk about bees all day. Have a really good time, and good luck!

  2. Thanks for the comment Jess – I am glad you pointed me towards the Backwards Beekeepers because I am planning on doing this organic/naturally and wasn’t sure of where to go for the best info. Do you have any favorite books you’d recommend?

  3. Generally speaking I like to refer back to old books so I can do things like my great-grandparents might have done them, but in the case of beekeeping, the world is completely different from the olden days with all the disease, mites and problems that plague us now.

    My two favorite books are Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping. I have never recommmended a complete idiot’s guide for *anything* before, but this book was written by some smart people who promote the “backwards beekeeper” management style, and it’s actually quite good. I own both Natural Beekeeping & the Complete Idiot’s guide. The guide is more geared toward general, beginner info and Natural Beekeeping gives you a more in-depth understanding, but they do a lot of meddling that the backwards beekeepers are opposed to.

    Another good online resource is Michael Bush’s teachings ( http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm ). He writes well and I like his explanations / ideas.

  4. Great – I grabbed the Idiot’s Guide and have been reading through it, seems very thorough! I’ll check out the Natural Beekeeping book too.

    This is exciting – I have sooooo much to learn! And our boxes are almost done… next comes the bees! Can’t freaking wait!

  5. Interestingly, we opted to use slim strips of wax foundation (“starter strips”) in our hives, to minimize exposure to chemicals. We’ve seen annecdotal evidence that bees don’t like to build comb on plastic foundation. Plus, we didn’t like the idea of off-gassing plastic next to the brood cells.

    Do let us, your blog readers, know how this turned out! I’m always interested in learning from other Beekeepers.

    • HI Lisa, Thanks for your comment ~Everything in the hive seems to be going perfectly – so far, we haven’t seen any issues with the bees building comb on the plastic. Before installing the colony we coated all of the foundation with wax that is apparently pesticide free, which is supposed to help the bees accept it. I am not sure how long it takes for the off gassing to happen but that is a good question and concern.

  6. My grandfather kept bees and had a handy little book about the subject. I have kept it all these years as a keepsake. My wife’s uncle also kept bees and loved it. He kept a water spigot dripping on some rocks next to the hive during dry or hot weather. They were always needing water.
    If you have neighbors that spray poisons, be sure that the spray does not drift over your hives and kill all of your precious bees.

    All the best,
    David in Houston/ Tropical Texana garden blog

    P.S. We also have chickens! Just got them in April. 🙂

    • Hi David – Thanks for the comment. One of my favorite thing to do is watch the bees drink from the pond on hot days. Luckily I live in an area where there is a lot of native vegetation and not much agriculture so I don’t worry too much about pesticides. Have fun with your chickens – I’ll have to check out your blog to see how they’re doing!

  7. Hi Jessi,
    I recently came upon your blog and really like it. I too have chickens and a veggie garden.
    I grew up in France with bees, my Dad has had +/- 12 hives for the past 40 years and he has always used the slim strips of wax foundation (“starter strips”) with a lot of success.
    I have moved to the PNW recently and hope to keep bees soon, they are such facinating creatures.
    One more thing I have noticed is the different way of keeping bees here (talking with various people) is that not everyone feeds them enough in winter time and the hives are not always protected enough from the North winds and are not always East facing.
    In any case good luck with your new colony.

    • I know nothing about bees eepcxt my fanily has always been deathly allergic to their stings however, after watching you I have been more open to them. We never have more than one or two honey bees around our house but, yesterday I counted 12 in my yard. I even bent down to get a closer look. Thanks for calming my childhood fears of these great little creatures

  8. HI Anne,
    I’m glad you found Garden Fowl! Everyone I talk to about beekeeping seems to do something different but everyone is super helpful, its been great. I wanted to do a top hive originally, but figure I can always do that down the road. BTW – I drooled over some of the recipes on your blog… I need to try some of them out!
    j e s s i

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