Hi there ~ My name is Arielle, and I have been living at Three Goats Farm through a work exchange for about a month now! It has been such a pleasure participating in community building and getting my hands in some soil. A project on the farm that I’ve been super jazzed about lately is our two new beehives! Beekeeping is a great way to increase the number of pollinators on the farm and get our own local honey! This week, a group of us met with a local bee guru, Dave, who has studied through the OSU Master Beekeeping program (find out more about the program here), and is excited to share his wisdom with us.
To get our bees to their new home, we woke up bright and early to move the hive before the bees get bzzzzzzy for the day. We loaded them up in the back of our truck and drove them home while the sun was rising. Back at the farm, we put the hives near the blackberry bushes, and made sure they were elevated so that skunks won’t mess with the hive. Apparently skunks eat bees?? Dave made sure to leave the entrance to the hive mostly closed for two reasons: 1. to get the hive accustomed to its new location, and 2. to make it easier for the bees to protect the hive from robbers. After letting the bees out, we left them to explore their new spot and get comfortable on the farm.
Several days later, Dave returned to the farm to check-in on the hives. He looked at the hive numbers, wanted to locate the queen, to make sure nothing had happened to her in the move, and looked for any signs of mites or a weak hive. We saw that one hive is doing really well. There are lots and lots of bees, no evidence of mites, lots of honey, and new larva and eggs. The other hive was not doing as well; there are less bees and there’s a bit of a mite problem. Mites are a small bee parasite that cling to the back of the bees, sucking their blood, and lay eggs in their combs.
To see the extent of the mite problem we wanted to get some the mites off the bees to count them, Dave put a bunch of bees in a jar with two tablespoons of powdered sugar, and shook them all up to aggravate them and thoroughly coat them in the sugar. This forces the bees to quickly groom themselves, shaking off the powdered sugar along with the mites. Once we knew that there were enough mites to want to treat the hive, we put a block of formic acid in the hive to kill the mites within the hive. We will check the status of the hives again in a few days, to see if the problem persists.
It’s been really exciting to see the bees drinking water down by the river while we swim, and work alongside them, harvesting and planting, while they pollinate the plants on the farm. It gives me a sense of the cooperative nature of small scale farming, and really shows the importance of working in unison with the ecosystem that we are apart of. It feels good to be so deeply connected to the entire process of planting, pollination, tending to the plants, harvesting, and providing for the community in a way that respects and appreciates nature. Reconnecting with the natural food system we have been increasingly removed from feels like getting back to the core of what it means to be human.
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