Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jennifer Tyler: The Beginner Beekeeper, Part Two

To read Part One in this series, click here.

Beekeeping class — I like to call it “B-School” — was taught by professional beekeepers, guys who maintain hundreds of hives. For them assembling and painting hives is a necessary part of beekeeping and nothing more. When fielding questions regarding painting, the standard answer given was, “Make sure you don't skimp on primer. Hives are in the field for years, and you want to protect them well. As for the paint, use whatever leftover paint you have. Bees don't care what color the hive is, as long as there's a queen in it.”

I looked at Alison, my new friend from class. We rolled our eyes. We want pretty hives.

I did follow the instruction on primer. I bought a gallon of the best-quality primer sold by the local hardware store. Then I flipped through all the sample color chips until the clerk helpfully said, “If you're looking for yellow, there's a brochure of just yellow.” Brilliant. After some hemming and hawing, I chose a pale yellow named Custard and a pale violet-blue: Teacup.

Thinking it would take most of a day to get two coats of primer and two coats of paint on the hives, I planned a sunny Sunday around hive painting.

"Don't skimp on primer. Hives are in the field for years,
and you want to protect them well."

Granted, I don't have a lot of experience with painting dry wood. It took most of the day to get two coats of primer on the hives, then Sunday was over.

A whole Sunday spent with primer

A week later my boyfriend helped me move the hives back outside to be finished in Custard and Teacup and mentioned that I might want to sand them a bit, apply an additional coat of primer, then (finally?) paint them. Also, maybe we'll round the edges just enough to prevent paint drips. Because, of course, I want pretty hives.

I think this Saturday will be “the day” — the day the hives are finished and will move to their new home between the apple trees, next to the stone wall. I'm glad that I'm doing things this way this time. I hear that beekeeping is addictive and that two hives lead to four hives and four hives lead to sixteen hives. I'm learning proper methods for woodworking, and I will always know right away which were my original pair of hives, because there will never be enough time to give this much attention to sixteen!

Jennifer Tyler works for Bank Square Books, an independent bookstore in southeastern Connecticut. When not reading or writing, she's playing with horses, dabbling in the fiber arts, or tending an organic vegetable garden with her boyfriend. Beekeeping and spinning are the latest projects in her effort to “homestead” on less than a quarter acre of rented land. Her search for authenticity is like a bottomless well.


Pechorin de Veuvray said...

Truly fascinating Jennifer! The weather is improving and I can't wait for Part 3.
Also, I just read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. You are my Bee Charmer!!!

mick said...

I followed a link from another blog and you have certainly given me a good laugh! I am ONLY used to white painted hives! Can't wait to see photos of the finished product! btw my two hives led to several hundred.

Gardeningbren said...

Can't wait to see the finished hive...love the color choice!

Arden said...

My husband wants to keep bees as his after-retirement project. Enjoyed your article and want to read part 3.

Melanie Jolicoeur said...

I'm really intrigued with beekeeping and look forward to reading more about your experience. Meanwhile, the hives are looking great!