Several months ago, Dad and I agreed that I would take his old hive to my house, and I would begin to keep bees here at Poppy Corners. I went ahead and ordered a colony of bees, and we've just been waiting for them to arrive.

A couple weeks ago, I was walking the dog in a local park, when I came across this swarm:

I called Dad, and he said we should go pick it up. So, we did. They were attached to a mock orange tree branch, quite low to the ground. All we had to do was suit up, clip the branch, and put the swarm in a cardboard box, which we then taped up. Dad took them home to his house and put them in the old hive. They are doing well there, collecting both nectar and pollen, but Dad isn't sure there is a queen, or at least there are no eggs yet. We'll see what happens in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile I wondered what I would do for a hive, since Dad's was now being used? He said he'd make me a new one, and so then I knew I could choose a different design if I wanted.

You see, most people use Langstroth hives. You've seen these millions of times:

I decided, after much research, that I wanted to try a Top Bar Hive. They look like this:

They don't produce as much honey all at once, you need to check them more often in the beginning and near harvest; but the method seems more natural to me - the bees build their own combs in the shape they prefer - and it seems easier to get inside the hive and see what's going on. Also, I think it's interesting looking. And different.

I remembered a house near the open space where I walk Joe... it had a box in the front yard that looked a lot like this. Dad and I drove up and knocked on the door, introduced ourselves, and asked about the hive. This sweet young couple opened up the hive, in the rain, so we could see inside and take pictures.

Then, they actually GAVE US the blueprints for the hive. This kind of thing seems to happen all the time with beekeepers, what a great bunch of people.

So Dad built me a top bar hive, and it's been waiting... and waiting...

Finally, today I went to pick up my bees! I had ordered a colony of Italians from one of the people at the Mt Diablo Beekeepers Association. Today they had their spring workshop; folks could come pick up the bees they had ordered, watch hives being opened, taste different honey, and get to know each other. It was at someone's house, and there were hives set up all around the yard!

There were large stacks of bees waiting for pick up.

The bees all seemed quite calm.

I wandered around a bit, met some folks, looked inside a few hives, and purchased a hive tool. Then I got my bees. The queen was attached inside in her own cage, inside the big crate. I left with instructions on how to replace the plug of her cage with some candy. The worker bees will eat the candy to get to the queen; this allows them to get to know her before she is released.

The crate of bees rode home on the front seat of the car.

There were several bees hanging on the outside. I guess they were from the yard where these bees were awaiting pick up. I tried to gently brush them off, but they just kept hanging on. During the drive home, two of them let go and drifted around my head and finally out the sun roof. The others remained on the crate. Guess they belong to me, now.

The bees hung out on our cool and shady front porch for the day, until late afternoon when it was finally time to set up the hive and release the bees. Every so often, I would spritz them with a 1:1 sugar/water syrup.

Then the bees would stick out their long tongues and lick up all the sugar water.

Dad came over late today, with the hive. (Experienced beekeepers recommend that you release your bees later in the day, so they have time to get to know the joint and decide to stay, rather than flying off right away to a nicer place. Not that there's a nicer place than Poppy Corners.) We set it up in the backyard, near the water feature, away from heavy traffic.

Then we had a 'rehearsal' of sorts, talking about the process and figuring out the steps. We took off the roof of the hive, and made room in the bars so we could get the bees inside. A top bar hive uses bars instead of frames. The bees build natural comb downward from the bars.

Then we suited up, opened the bee crate and took out the queen.

We replaced the cork in her tiny cage with a candy plug - that's the part that the workers will eat to get to her.

The queen was frantic. I was glad to get her cage attached inside where the workers would start letting her out.

Then it was time to release the workers into the hive. We had to really shake 'em out of that crate.

Finally they were all in, except for a few stragglers who were still hanging out in the old crate. We left that down on the ground beside the hive - they'll figure out where to go.

Then we closed it up, and hung out and watched the bees explore their new home.

This is the entrance. Next to it is a feeder; they'll need food for the next few days, maybe even longer, while they build comb. Soon they'll start collecting nectar and pollen, and it won't take long before they can feed themselves. Meanwhile, I'll keep the sugar syrup feeder full.

All done. Isn't that hive gorgeous? Aren't the sawhorses cute?

Poppy Corners has a beehive!

Now, how am I going to tear myself away from watching them???