By Tina L. Van Zile
Tim Murphy approached me this past winter and asked if I would like to start beehives as a part of my summer youth program. I said “yes” immediately because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time nor the bee expert to help get it started. Tim has been managing his own beehives for 25 years, and I was so grateful when he said he’d teach us how to manage them.
In January, the bees and hives were ordered through Hansen’s Honey Farm in Rhinelander. Then we just had to wait for the supplies and later the bees.
Tim set up the first beehive at the end of May, and he said, “Tina I will need some sugar water made,” to feed the bees. So, I got his sugar and, unfortunately, I was super busy with planning the Strawberry Moon Powwow, so Pete McGeshick, III, helped boil the sugar water to make a simple syrup. Tim and Pete started feeding the bees and, after a couple times, the bees were well on their way to building their hives.
My summer youth started on June 5th, and after the powwow, Tim took the youth out to begin the teachings for the summer. You will see in the photos that as the bees got busy, he had to had get more beehive boxes.
Tim told us a good day to open up the hives is when it’s nice and sunny because the bees are happy. You DO NOT go into the hives on a cold or rainy day because they are grumpy bees and will sting you.
We didn’t use beehive suits because Tim knew when to enter the hives – with the exception of one particular day in the beginning when he first opened the bees after they arrived. The bees must have been HANGRY. Anyway, Tim and Pete went to feed the bees for the first time and Tim started to open the hive and he immediately told Pete, “Get out of here, Pete get out of here now!” Pete said that he slowly backed away and watched as Tim started to get stung several times…LOL. I’m sorry but this is so funny because we all have a love/hate relationship with Tim. Anyway, poor Tim received many bees stings for the sake of the project.
To make a long story short, Tim said, “It is unlikely that the bees will produce any honey in the first summer, so don’t be disappointed.” We
were all just very happy to start this project and that Tim was so willing to help the summer youth. I enjoyed seeing Tim when he was by the beehives and talking with my summer youth workers. You could see he truly enjoyed it and loved sharing his knowledge.
Last Monday Tim told me that he was going to take the beehive trays and spin them at his house because we don’t have a spinner yet. A couple of days later, he brings me a five gallon bucket of fresh honey that came from our bees!
I am planning an evening event in September to use the honey in a couple recipes, and I’m hoping I have enough honey to give one jar to each household on the reservation as well as to a few Elders who live nearby.
In addition to thanking Tim, I would also like to thank Pete, Nathan Podany and Clint Soulier for helping Tim with the beehives.