Reflecting On My Beekeeping Year for 2021

bees save the bees

Lately I have been reflecting on what a crazy ride 2021 has been for my beekeeping journey. If you didn't already know I started keeping my own bees after working at a large apiary in May 2020. My goal was to only have bee's that I had rescued. In May of 2020 I completed my first hive extraction and saved my first hive!

My goal for 2021 was to grow to possibly 4. I really didn't have any expectations other than maybe to catch one or two swarms. In 2021 I was able to rescue 14 hives. My main goal is to never remove a hive from some where that it may not be harming anyone or anything. There was many ways I was able to blow my goal out of the water.

I learned a new method with some help from my buds at Tri City Bee Rescue a 'trap out'. This allows the bees to leave the tree where they were residing for some time, but aren't able to return to the hive back in the tree. A bee box is placed above the entrance and the bees move into the box. After all the bees left the tree I moved this box to my apiary. I only agreed to remove this hive out of the tree as the tree needed to be significantly trimmed as it was laying on the home owners home. Not too many tree trimmers are willing to come and cut a tree filled with thousands of bees. 

I also partnered up with Mason from BubbaSquish Honey and Bee Rescue in July of 2021. I don't know how Mason was able to complete some of these large bee removals on his own in previous years. However, once I partnered up with him we were able to work well together to complete 4 home extractions (2 of those being within the same home). Mason informed me recently that he completed 14 honey bee removals and 7 hornet removals just this year. Mason and myself struck our 15 minutes of fame when CBC featured our story in the local news. The amount of calls I was getting for bee calls in the following weeks all over Ontario was very overwhelming. I remember one day I received 10. 

On my own I collected swarms, which are just a small cluster of bee's that are pretty docile as they are homeless and don't have anything they are trying to protect. I love these calls. My most memorable one this year was one where a 12 year old girl stood beside me during the whole process just amazed and asking questions. I wish I was this interested in nature and bees at that young age. 

In September of 2021 I learned the amount of passion I have for these furry friends I had was much bigger than I ever expected. You see beekeeping isn't a set it and forget it hobby. You must check your bees weekly, and with rescues some times its even more frequent as you are relocating a hive so there is some returns at night to make sure they stick around. Anyways, the flood on the evening/morning of September 22/23. I received a phone call from the farmer where I have the majority of my hives; he was apologizing to me about my bees. Three hives had washed away. I left my workshop upset, thinking about what I may need to rescue them (boots, gloves, sugar water, etc.) I have been trying my best to always enter a situation with a positive attitude, some times a positive attitude can make a shitty situation that much easier. However, not this time. As soon as I got out of my car I saw the hive equipment upside down and down the river I was taken aback with reality. This is not what I was expecting. I thought I could just slide my knee high rubber boots on over my bee suit and continue the bee rescuing I was starting to get comfortable doing. No. Not this time Cassandra. After crying and wondering what the hell have I done. I even told myself that I have fucked up bad, how could I let this happen. I doubted all of the things I was trying to accomplish and make a small mark on 'saving the bees'. I gathered my thoughts and realized I still had 7 hives that I had rescued that year and they were fine. I still needed to try to do something as I could see some bee activity around the one hive. I went and talked to the farmer to see if he had any ideas. After he gave me a beer (it was noon at this point haha) and calmed me down we thought that I could try some hip waders. So I put on my bee suit, and put the hip waders on over top. What an uncomfortable feeling. As soon as I stepped out into the water I realized how hard it was to walk in these, how do people fish in these? Anyways, I started walking towards the hives, the first one I came up to was completely dead; at that point I changed my focus on the hive that had a pile of bees sitting on the lid. I tried to pick it up, but dropped it instantly. Duh Cassandra this thing is not only full of bees and honey but also water. I punched the bottom board off of the hive which released some of the weight from the water. I threw the bottom board towards the shoreline, however I am no baseball player and it landed maybe 10 meters ahead of me. I picked up the hive, at this point the water was to my hips. I would count out 4 steps and stop for a break to gather my balance, breath, and throw the bottom board ahead of me to continue moving forward. I remember at one point I spoke out loud to my mom who was hopefully watching me thinking how proud she was of me and not of how crazy I have become haha. I continued this method till I got to the opening where I could set them down. I was out of breath, proud that I didn't drown, proud that I was able to continue to rescue these bees. 

I recently checked on this hive to see how it is recovering from its journey down the river. The queen is laying and they are cleaning up the mess. I am hoping that they are able to continue to clean up the mess that the water damage has caused (dead bees and mould). The farmer informed me that in 60 years he has never seen the space where I kept my bees flood. 

I am looking forward to a break this winter where I can reflect on what I want 2022 to look like, even though the bees don't really take it into consideration. I started beekeeping as I found it quite peaceful and it helped my mental health significantly. I found some kind of crazy connection with communicating with my mom through this journey of beekeeping. I have lost that connecting in just doing what needs to be completed instead of slowing down and connecting with nature. 


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