Daniel has always wanted to have a beehive. He wanted one back in Ontario but being in a neighbourhood, we felt it was too close to a population of people to responsibly do it. Moving to Nova Scotia, game on!
A Bit of Where We Live
We live on the south ridge of the Annapolis Valley. It's why our property appears to be on a hill. Towards the highway we have to go down and getting up our laneway that is long is a bit of a pain in the ass as the ice can build up on the laneway that comes up.
We live in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. It's known for produce, wineries, breweries and tourism. The Minas Basin on the right in the photograph goes up and down with the tides up to 75 feet.
From the Wolfville Reservoir where the leash-free park is for PuppiDawg. You can see the cliffs that span across the valley floor.
From our porch and just barely through the trees, we can see the north ridge you see here in this photo. This view is from the dog park, we don't have this view at home.
We live in a strong agricultural area. In fact, just across the road and a few doors down is Noggins Corners that hosts the annual corn maze and family fun in the fall. It's a tourist attraction but Noggins is open all year long with the produce it creates here in the valley. It's not hard to eat local, in-season produce, all year long.
The Valley has 1000's Beehives
There are many family beehives here in the valley and beehives that are moved around to pollinate the fruit trees and shrubs that surround us. There are people who are backyard beehive keepers who are doing it for nature, honey and just to watch the bees.
We have more bees than just honey bees and in this endeavour, we have learned that we are not trying to save the honey bees. Those are not the issue, it's the native bees that are naturally from this area. We learned that honeybees originated from the Equator regions and hot areas like Australia. There are 800 species of native bees and you may recognize them such as Bumble Bees and Mason Bees. Mason bees are responsible for a lot of the pollination but don't get the credit. They are darker in colour, almost grey/green tinge without the iconic yellow and black jackets.
The native bees are what we want to take care of. We have these mini nests throughout the grounds that naturally happen as a result of giving the place for bees to eat.
Native bees don't produce honey but are eating the nectar and pollinating naturally by jumping from plant to plant. Yes, even wasps and the nasty ones are pollinating.
Fear of Bees
In coming to understand bees since moving to Nova Scotia, we've grown out of the fear of bees. Yes, some people are allergic but we are not one of those people.
You cannot eat if you don't have pollination happening. So it's part of our interest to keep bees protected.
Since moving here, the 5.5 acres we have were empty. Daniel has literally planted hundreds of trees and thousands of perennials. They are working together for ecology balance.
We have three insect hotels now. One major hotel for earwigs, creepy crawlies, bees and whatever else may be inside. Two others are for mason bees. Each insect requires its own habitat.
We also have two bird condos onsite for nesting and 1 Chimney Swift Hotel that has yet to be occupied.
The Chimney Swift is 20 feet tall and designs for swifts to find their way to a safe shelter. They are endangered. It could also be a refuge for bats but we haven't yet seen a bat while here in Nova Scotia as the bat population has been devastated by sickness.
People lecture me not to attract the bees for safety but let's face it, we live in an agricultural goldmine. The bees are already here. There are literally 1000's of bees on the grounds daily feeding in the summer as the entire property has been designed for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
- Without the trees, the birds have no safe haven to stop at.
- Without the planting of trees and perennials, the worms in the ground weren't present and now when you dig, there are worms. Worms for the birds to find.
- Without the pollinators, the flowering fruit trees that the birds scavenge when the fruit ripens isn't possible.
- Without a safe place for the insects to go, they find somewhere else. We want the insects to stay as it gives Daniel a full and lush garden presentation but also gives them insecticide-free plants and trees to feed on.
Surprise with Sunflowers
Sunflowers are expensive by the seed but we discovered in 2021 the benefits of sunflowers beyond the beauty of the flowers and pollination.
The bluejays and goldfinches are hovering around the sunflowers. Sitting on the flowers after the flower is done. Pulling out the seeds to eat. It's exactly what we want for eco-balance.
We are hoping to jump in once we can see when the seeds are ready to save some handfuls to replant next year. We have stray sunflowers on the grounds as we feed the birds over the winter and they can spread. It's pretty.
Hard to Get
Nucs are when you can buy a queen bee and bees that go with her. They range from $150 +. The queen is caged and there are up to 10,000 bees that are assisting her inside a box.
They are done in advance by people who do this process. Not all queens will work together with the bees they are teamed with. It's essentially putting an adopted family together and see how they go.
They are hard to get and breeders of this process don't want to keep giving bees to people who are just going to kill them off through negligence as it takes time to form the nucs. They want to be sure people are taking it seriously as it's a living creature with needs.
Making the Hive
It was far easier to buy a kit than it was to make one myself. The cost of wood is through the roof so buying a prefab kit was the way to go.
It was easy to put together but ultimately, I wanted to paint it in a fun way.
I prepared a base for it with leftover bricks we already had.
The beehive has been placed in an area where it will get full sun but also shade in the middle of the afternoon so the hive doesn't overheat. They recommended either strapping the hive down to skid or putting rocks on the top to help weigh it down.
Now we just wait. We don't expect bees this year as it's already September and bees will be soon hibernating.