Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let's Get Started

Last weekend we loaded up the family and drove down to Centreville, MD to the von Voss homestead - otherwise known as Oak Leaf Farm. We met Vicco von Voss through our dear friend Jacqui Flisher - who married Vicco a few months ago. Vicco is a furniture maker and home-builder - but these words do not do justice to his work - go check out his website and you can see pictures of their incredible timber-frame house and some of his furniture designs - his work is unbelievable and even more so in person -

Among other things, Vicco has kept bees for about ten years. While hanging out with Jacqui and Vicco last fall, he unintentionally helped to plant the idea of keeping bees in my head. I had thought for a while about the idea of being able to provide locally produced honey to my acupuncture patients who suffered from seasonal allergies (the jury is not out on this, but there are people who feel that if you consume honey that is produced where you live, it can help with allergies - the honey acting as sort of a homeopathic dose of all of the local flower pollen) and finally meeting someone who kept bees helped me realize I could do it myself. Of course having my own supply of honey at home is an obvious motivation too!

So I went to the library and got out every book on beekeeping that I could find. Then Vicco sent me an entire set of other well-thumbed books to read. He also promised that he had a lot of equipment that he could loan me to help get me started in my first year of beekeeping. So, last weekend it was time to go pick up the goodies. Vicco provided me with two hives worth of equipment, a veil, a smoker and assorted other accessories (Thank you again Vicco!). You can see that the VW was packed to the gills.

Today I spent the day cleaning the equipment as it has been sitting in a shed for a while at Vicco's and it was pretty manky. I also placed my order for bees today - yes, they come in the mail! They get delivered in a package (2 or 3 pounds of bees - up to 10,000 bees and a queen) to your local post office and then they call you to come pick them up. I can't wait until they arrive at the post office around the corner from us - the looks on the faces will be priceless. So, in mid-April I will receive my bees. I actually ordered one 3 pound package and one "nuc". A nuc (short for nucleus) is basically like a mini-hive - it has brood, honey and pollen already in it. I plan on having two hives and I wanted to start one with a package of bees and one with a nuc to see how the two hives compare. I am going to keep one hive on a second story roof and one in the yard.

I started attending a beekeeping class with the Montgomery County, PA beekeepers association - it meets once a month and basically walks you through a full season of beekeeping. I also went to a separate one day seminar for beginning beekeepers. Of course as you might imagine, there is a ton of great info about beekeeping online. I have recently been reading about organic methods of beekeeping and definitely plan on trying to minimize my use of chemical interventions (which are very common in commercial and even hobbyist beekeeping). There is a growing and very active community of biological and organic beekeepers who like small organic farmers, are instituting practices which are healthier, more sustainable and more beneficial to the bees themselves. If you know me, you know this is right up my alley.


  1. are you sure that we are related by blood? i know that dad would have loved your garden...but bees?? i can just hear his comments now...

  2. ad - this is awesome! i can totally imagine you getting all mad scientist with this venture. i've added your blog to my RSS feed so that i can follow all your bee of luck getting it going!

  3. I agree with Jill. How much $ is 3lbs of bees. The neighbors are going to love you. That being said, I think its pretty cool and can be a good learning experience for all the children in the family. Can't wait to taste the honey. Good luck.

  4. 3lbs o' bees will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $70-100. Nucs tend to be a bit more.