Martina has been making beeswax candles at Honey Candles for almost a year. We were absolutely delighted when we found out she was a beekeeper! It wasn’t long before the whole staff was talking about a field trip to see Martina and her bees. We had our opportunity in early July.
We carpooled and arrived at Martina and Franz’s cozy residence nearby in Mirror Lake. We were welcomed by Faro, their dog and I was delighted to find several clucking hens, doing what happy hens do – going about scratching looking for bugs and tasty greens. These hens have the best hen house I’ve seen. It is nicely painted and complemented with a sign and their window comes complete with a window box and flowers!
Martina has a great garden located conveniently close to her bee hives. No worries about pollination here! She has two hives. She had to get new bees this year. Apparently all the beekeepers in the immediate area lost their bees last winter so they all had to get bees from New Zealand. Martina says that because New Zealand is an isolated island they have fewer problems with their bees so it is a good source of disease free stock. Because everyone locally has new disease free honey bees it is hoped that it stays that way for a while. Honey Bees can apparently pick up mites off flowers where mite infested bees have been before.
Martina received about 2 pounds of bees this spring. That is approximately 2000 honey bees and by the beginning of July there were about 30,000. The honey bees arrived in a long tube ventilated at each end. There was a queen shipped as well. The bees take special care of her. The hive boxes are sterilized as honey bee diseases can stick around for a while. The bees are given their beeswax frames on which they make cells for the queen to lay her eggs in and to store honey. They come into the hive and ‘houseclean’ and when they are satisfied the queen lays eggs. The eggs hatch in approximately 21 days.
The photo shows a frame in the foreground as it was given to the bees and at the top is the frame full of cells made by the bees. The cells can have eggs, larvae or honey in them. They are capped with beeswax. It is this capping wax that is the cleanest and purest and makes the best beeswax candles. The foundation wax from the rest of the frame is not as clean and is darker.
Martina, Leslie and Roy suited up so they could see into the hive and take photographs. They told us the suit was hot but they preferred to be safe from the wrath of the bees (in case the bees felt harassed). Martina suggested they even duct tape their ankles so the bees couldn’t fly up their pant legs. Martina was impressive in that she moved around her bees with confidence, slowly and calmly. Her confidence gave the bees confidence and so all went well.
We are anxious to see the bees now! We are going to save that for Visiting Martina's Honey Bees Part Two August 15. So don't miss next weeks blog. I think Roy and Leslie are going to be pretty warm in those suits by then!