TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE. THAT IS THE QUESTION.

I have some bad news about one of my best friends.  She isn’t doing very well.  She’s a tree so don’t start getting too weepy.  But still.  She seems pretty sick to me.  I’ve been putting it off but I have a horrible feeling she’s going to have to be put down.  Or in this case cut down.

The 150 year old maple tree in my backyard (totally guessing the age) has a lot of branches that are dead or dying and she just seems like she’s giving up.  I’ll have to call the city about her because technically she’s on their property so they’re the ones that’ll probably make the call about whether she lives or dies.  I have a feeling it’ll be the later.

The canopy expands across the street and my backyard providing soul and shade to my little spot in the world.

Every other year I tap my maple tree and spend hours upon hours making just enough maple syrup to get me through a couple of winters.  I don’t share, I don’t give it away, I don’t even show anyone my maple syrup for fear they’ll ask me for a bottle.  I don’t blame them, I’m sure they have no idea I’d rather eat their veins than give up a bottle of my maple syrup.

I’ll never be able to replace everything that tree gives my backyard;  the shade, the mood, the shadows.  But I might be able to replace the sweet jars of goo it gives me.

Enter the bee.

I have been considering then dismissing the thought of getting bees for 8 years now.  Everyone I know says bees are hardly any work at all, but neither is maintaining a drawer full of clean underwear yet most days I worry I’ll get into an accident wearing a “back of the drawer” pair of gauchies.  You know the ones.  They either have loose elastic and don’t sit anywhere near your bits, or they were a well intentioned gift from a partner that has never had to endure the discomfort of wearing anything made out of cheap lace and whore.

So no matter how little time keeping bees might take, they do take some time.  More time than washing a load of laundry.

But now that this tree of mine might be on its last roots I’m thinking I could possibly replace it’s spot in the backyard with a pretty little beehive.  ACKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!  I can’t do this. I don’t have enough time. I. Can. Not. Do. This.

I’m gonna do it.

NOOOOO.

I’m so conflicted.

Part of the reason I couldn’t have bees in the backyard earlier (aside from the whole time thing) was that beehives need sun.  At least some sun in the morning to wake them up and get them started on their day. Without that big tree, I’d have a few spots of morning sun.  And afternoon sun. And evening sun.  There’d be a lot of sun.

There’d also be a lot of bees.  Most honeybees are pretty docile, but still.  It’s a small backyard, I already have what might be a killer chicken on my hands and I can also assure you I have giant, killer, Cicadas that whirlyfly right at your head every once in a while.  Don’t underestimate the power of a Cicada until you’ve had one try to whirlyfly up your sneeze chute.

Maybe I’ll just get a goat.  I’m sure they’re hardly any work at all.

Have a good weekend and let me know if you have bees and what your thoughts are on them.  Ditto for the goats.  Or llamas.  Or Alpacas.  And most especially sloths.

 

 

145 Comments

  1. Bees are great. But I want bats. They eat mosquitos and move themselves in 🙂

  2. Vanessa says:

    I LOVE animals! What I do not love is the overwhelming work that they require (and deserve). I have more than enough room for chickens, bees, and even a small herd of goats. What we have is A cat. Just the one, and she is exhausting. “I want in, I want out, feed me, pet me, but don’t touch me, I want to sit on your face.”
    Sorry to hear about your tree. But bee’s would be awesome! You know, at your house. Not mine. 😉

  3. Glenda says:

    Puh.leeeze. Get bees. Teach me! I want them too. I have 1/3 acre and love supplying nectar rich plants for bees. High time they started giving back! Lol

  4. Julie says:

    Sloths are easily potty trained but smell terrible. Trust me.

  5. Amy in StL says:

    Call an arborist. My parents have an enormous oak and the arborist had to cut away half of it after a lightning strike. It had a beetle infestation and yet it survived. Nobody thought it would, but with proper treatment and trimming it’s healthy and coming back.

  6. I vote miniature donkeys.

  7. Nicole says:

    Get a goat. I have extras. 🙂

  8. Rebecca says:

    If you choose to keep bees, I would really enjoy following along.

  9. Nancy says:

    Beekeepers don’t like the Flow Hive because it’s a gimmick. It’s not an easier way to keep bees. You still have to keep and maintain the bees the same as any hive. The “ease” is in getting the honey out of the hive with just a tap. My beekeeper friends all said the same thing, No. They also said that the cell frame that the honey is stored in and separates to create the flow is made of plastic and they are concerned about plastic off gassing and causing harm to the bees. The ads make it sound like it’s an easier way to keep bees but it’s not. It’s just an easier way to harvest the honey.

  10. Nicole F. says:

    I’m late to the party (post) so forgive me if it’s already been offered: two words – Flow Hive. I have been pondering bees for quite a while also, and this has me more serious than ever. Watch any video of them harvesting on their Facebook page and I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t be dreaming of how your honey can be differently flavored depending on the flowers in bloom nearby. It would be another way for me to live vicariously through you. 😉

    https://www.honeyflow.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIh_O_uIT51QIVELnACh2xwwa7EAAYASAAEgK_G_D_BwE

  11. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Umm… If the tree in the picture is the tree you’ve written about and said tree is on city property, why is your fence behind it? It’ll certainly change your entire yard if it has to come down. That would be a real shame. It’s so nearly perfect now. Maybe she just needs a good arborist to help her along……… Planning for a ‘post tree’ yard might be premature.
    I’ve had goats. You’re either a goat person or you’re NOT. I am not. And you really can’t have just one. Unless you want goat poop all over your yard, you have to have a pen. And, and , a……. What do you want them for? Milk? More time. Meat? Probably not. Yard ornaments? Get an elf. So I say no on goats.
    Bees? Small yard. Expensive hobby: hive, bees, beekeeping outfit, and more. Plus if any of your neighbors are allergic to bees, expect grief. Just buy local honey at the Farmers’ Market.
    Best choice if the old girl has to go plant another tree. Really what could be better company than a new tree?
    Good luck!

  12. Deb J says:

    Sorry. Normally I read all of the comments – it’s one of the reasons I like this blog. There are others but … This time I did not. I’ve been at the cottage, medical emergency (not life threatening), etc etc. But I like the bee idea AND … here in staid old Ottawa one can rent bees. You sign up and they put a hive on your location & they look after it. You get the honey. I’ve thought about it but our spot is not ideal. But CBC Ottawa has bees at their transmitter site. And I figured something like that might be good for you. Maybe even the Ottawa bee-ery.

    Sorry if somebody else beat me. Didn’t read them all. And good on ya if ya did.

  13. Leisa says:

    I’m sure there’s something like this in your area, but if not…

  14. Ellen says:

    I got bees last April. They are fascinating. I feel like a whole world of pollinators has opened up to me because of what I notice now. And I’m in awe of these little creatures and what they can teach us.

    Get bees. In the spring. It will change your life.

  15. Donna says:

    I vote for the arborist and if no hope, an incredibly expensive tree large enough to provide shade immediately. I vote against the bees. One of the posts mentioned wasps attacking the bees. I live in S. TX. That old saying that everything’s bigger in tx may not be totally true but it DOES apply to wasps. Big fat, red, juicy looking, aggressive wasps. Always on the hunt for water for their nasty little nests. And I’ve tried all the clever little Pinterest tricks to deal with them. Failures, all of them. This year I’ve put saucers of water on the edges of my property, away from the pool and grandkids play area, and my garden. But I travelled so much I have no idea if that idea is effective or not. May try again next year or move back to SC where wasps are normal size

  16. ugh, Him Again? says:

    Bees, try to get Russians.
    Goats are cats with horns and hooves.
    The epitome of mammalian perfection.
    Is that something you are ready for?
    Never goat, always goats.
    Llamas are wonderful idiots as long as you get past Berserk Llama Syndrome.
    Sloths, sneaky buggers.
    I had a chat with a sloth in 2015 and have not been out of bed for more than 6 hours at a time since.
    They spread their attitude and it infects you.

  17. Berit says:

    I’ve kept bees for the past two years. There is definitely a learning curve so you will need to factor in several hours worth of education time. Additionally, you will spend a fair amount of time in the spring and early summer both building the boxes and frames (if you choose to go the cheaper “assemble yourself” route) and getting the first hive established. Once everything is put together and the bees are installed, maintaining them it’s not a full time job but it does require a couple of hours of time a week the first few months. The honey harvest takes a solid day. I harvested around 60 pounds from my hive this summer and it was a long day of work.

    I’ll also second the comment about bees being an expensive hobby. There is some opportunity for DIY and getting things second hand but it’s still a little bit of a money pit.

    Re honey: newly established colonies will often not produce enough honey the first year for a harvest, especially if you start with packaged bees (as opposed to a nuc). Many first time beekeepers have to wait until the second summer to harvest any honey. And that assumes that you can get the hive through the winter. Keeping bees happy and healthy is significantly harder than I thought it would be.

    As far as space, you probably need a good 4-6 feet in front of the hive that you cede to the bees and their flight path. While honey bees are fairly mellow, they do need a few feet of free space in front of the hive for take off and landing during the months that they are flying (generally, when the temperatures are above 50 degrees). You definitely don’t want the front of the hive directly in front of a high traffic area of your backyard. The bees will just end up bumping into (and likely accidentally stinging) you and your guests.

    All that being said, I love my bees. I love watching them fly in and out of the hive. I love hunting for them in my garden. I love watching them pack on the pollen pants. I just love them. They are fascinating little creatures and it blows my mind that they create this delicious, edible substance that stores for months in a box in my backyard. Nature is freaking amazing.

    I’ll conclude by saying they are more work than a house plant but less work than a chicken. And, of course, always happy to share more of my limited experience and knowledge if you decide to take the plunge.

  18. Linda says:

    Here’s a pic of the hive, post painting and pre bees.

    • Karen says:

      Very nice! I’m still not convinced I have the time to devote to them but I can’t help but being pulled in their direction. 🙂 ~ karen!

  19. Linda says:

    I have bees. I love them. I just got them this year and my hive has already swarmed, made a new queen, and made so much honey I was able to swipe 2 frames worth guilt free. That said, getting started with bees will run you 500.00 – 750.00. Heck a nuc of bees alone runs 120.00 – 140.00. Also, during the summer they need to be checked every 10 days to ensure the queen doesn’t get honey bound and add boxes and frames as necessary. I recommend doing your homework over winter and then diving in early spring next year. Lastly, paint your boxes fun colors. White is dull dull dull! I did mine in pink and orange with pink, orange and burnt gold mandalas… because I could ;D

  20. SusanR says:

    If you get goats, you can’t have anything else in your yard – no yard furniture, no pizza oven, no plants. They’ll destroy everything. They’ll chew up the galaxy chair, the cushions on the furniture, the WOOD of the furniture. They’ll knock over the furniture, tables, pots. Plus, if you think a rooster is noisy, spend a day next to a goat pen. Your neighbors will NOT be happy.

    The bees will take more time than you want them to take, and they will interfere with your enjoyment of your yard. They’ll eventually sting your guests to the point they won’t want to attend your outside gatherings any longer. They’ll be all over the pond. Koi won’t eat more than one dead bee, before leaving their bodies to float or sink. Bees CAN kill Koi with stings. Bees also attract things that like to feed on bee larvae, like mice, rats, skunks and raccoons.

    How about a butterfly farm? You seem to enjoy hatching butterflies. That could be very rewarding.

    I hope it turns out the tree can be saved. The roots might need more nutrients than it’s getting. An arborist is the first step. And if the tree can’t be saved, keep an eye out for other maple trees in your neighborhood. You might be able to swap eggs for being able to hang a sap bucket on their maple tree.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be the right thing for you to do, and you can always find some beekeeper to take the hives, if it doesn’t work out, just like you did for the rooster. Goats might not be so easy to get rid of.

  21. Jody says:

    I’m so sorry about your tree. If it needs to come down please keep some of the limbs and part of the trunk to make stools, cutting boards, serving platters. Christmas gifts from now till……..
    And bees, lots of bees. Happy pollinating, honey producing bees.

  22. Steph says:

    Yes to the bees! Time-wise, bees are not a huge investment. 20 minutes or so every few weeks to see how they’re doing and if you need to add a super (so they’ll have more room for honey). Money-wise, it can be a different story, but if you make the decision now to get them next spring you can do what I did, which is just buy the equipment a little at a time all winter so it doesn’t feel like it’s so expensive. You don’t need a lot of space and the chickens won’t mind, either. My hive is right in the chicken yard- I thought I’d keep all the livestock together :)- and the bees leave the chickens alone and vice-versa.

  23. Carolyn Schneider says:

    Can you put a bee hive in your community garden? I would love to have a hive, but am allergic to bees (and deathly afraid of them).

  24. Amy in KC says:

    GET. THE. BEES! I convinced my dad to get beehives and bees this year. I don’t live with my parents anymore, so my dad is mainly in charge of the bees, but it’s a team effort between the two of us. I did a lot of research beforehand, but it’s hard to remember everything (and there is a TON to learn—they say you’re always learning), so I don’t really know if we know what we’re doing. But my dad has a kick out of watching the bees bring in the pollen and also pollinate his garden. I think it’d be awesome if you could get hives at your community garden, but it completely makes sense if they’re not allowed there since it’s a rented space. I think it’d be worth a shot in your backyard. Your backyard is pretty big and the bees will fly up to several miles away to bring in pollen. Honeybees can also be pretty docile … they don’t want to sting you because they will likely die afterward (the stinger gets stuck in human flesh and is ripped out of their abdomens) … it’s the other stinging insects (wasps, hornets) that give bees a bad reputation. 🙁 Not to say that they won’t get mad/scared from time to time, but that’s simply when you leave them alone!

    Regarding the expense, as someone above wrote, you can build your own boxes/frames (and even your own hives!) to save money. There will still be a lot of expense, though, but if you’re successful and can sell some honey (or give away as gifts, replacing money you typically spend on gifts), then that offsets some costs, too.

    Mostly it would be amazing if you had bees not only because bees are wonderful and important, but also because then I would learn from you because I know you’d have some incredible well-researched posts! 😉 So it’s a little selfish.

    GET THE BEES! 😀

    • Amy in KC says:

      P.S. I wanted to mention that they advise you to have two hives. I wanted a Warre hive because it’s supposed to be more hands-off (and more like a natural hive), and my dad’s buddy who is a beekeeper only knows more traditional hives, so the other hive we have is a Langstroth. So far the Warre hive is booming and the Langstroth one is doing OK, but doesn’t seem to be as well populated. We will see!

    • Karen says:

      So. I’m confused. Where do you stand on me getting bees? ~ karen!

  25. Suzy Charto says:

    Karen
    don’t wait too long to take care of the tree. I don’t know if you saw what happened in Montreal this week. The damage from the trees was awful. Wouldn’t want this to happen to you.

  26. marilyn meagher says:

    No bees,no goat more tree

  27. Brian says:

    2 Words ….. Goat Crossfit !!!!!!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC6qrH-cYKs
    Your the adventurist type, as soon as you mentioned maybe a goat, I thought of this,
    NOT that you need exercise, not that I think you need exercise, or to loose weight, no that dress looks fine on you…Why does this always happen when I mention exercise to women ??? No I didn’t mean adventurist like that, now you are being silly and twisting my words !!!! In the words of Charlie Brown AARRRRGGGHHHH !!!!!

    • Karen says:

      I’m officially offended. I could e a s i l y lift more than a chicken. Goat Crossfit. Pfttt. Toooo easy. I’m going to eat ice cream now. ~ karen!

  28. NinaMargo says:

    Karen, before you get your bees, read “The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men” by William Longgood. You will be able to definitively decide whether you want to welcome these fabulous creatures into your personal universe or just let them visit your garden occasionally. This book was my bookclub’s most recent choice last month – we all loved it!

    I DO mourn the loss of your big beautiful maple. How about replacing it with a beautiful Japanese maple so you can have lacy (but not whore-y) scarlet leaves in the fall?

  29. jaine kunst says:

    OK, I don’t have any bee advice but I was wondering why there are leaves over the door to the cob oven. Are you not making pizzas this summer? On second thought, I don’t think you should get bees (too much work, too little time) but maybe a cute arborist might work. Nah, they’re even more work.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. That’s a vase with branches in it on the dining table. Just an optical illusion. 🙂 I’ve made a lot of pizza this summer and am making it again tonight as a matter of fact. ~ karen!

  30. Diane Palecek says:

    In my heart of hearts I want an acre of land with tiny little barn and a couple of miniature horses. I’d build a ramp up to my front door and invite them in for vegetarian pizza every Friday night. Live your dream.

  31. Tori says:

    Get a Flow Hive. I have one and I don’t even have any bees.

  32. Amy Watson says:

    Karen, listen to me OK???? DO NOT GET A GOAT…..unless you have an acre or 2 if grass and weeds and tin cans, that’s what goats eat, if they don’t have that they will eat your furniture and then the hen house and when that’s gone they will come after what’s next….your house and garden , so no goat!!!!! Sorry about the tree I really am…..now go find us a good book to read ……

  33. Linn says:

    I completely agree with all of the “call an arborist” posts for your sad Maple. We, too have an old Maple tree that is the focal point of our backyard. It has slowly (5years or so), been putting out smaller leaves, and dead branches. We contacted an arborist about 3 years ago, and his recommendation was to water more, especially where we had added a deck, chicken coop and cement patio. It seems we were also suffocating it with the huge pile of soil waiting for the waterfall that never materialized. Well, the old girl just never recovered. Jump ahead to 2017, and the new arborist cleared the area around the trunk to reveal that the tree was actually choking itself with it’s own 10″ root! So, we hired “Root Cause” (great name for a root doctor), right? He and his crew came in and did major root surgery and carefully pruned it’s companion plants. $1400 later, and I can’t tell you if it helped, or not, but that tree is like a family member, and if it is cured, then it was completely worth it! Plus, it would cost a lot more to remove it! Good Luck!

  34. Irene says:

    Please dont be hasty in chopping down the tree.
    Rene has a point. You may have blocked any water from getting to the roots with your paving. It’s a good idea to skip a paver every meter and a half or so, to allow water to run to the roots. You could plant something like mondo grass in the gaps. It takes a tree a long time (to us) to show its distress. It will also take a few seasons to show you whether she is recovering or dying.
    Perhaps you can open some gaps and do a lot of very deep watering for the next couple of years? Also don’t tap for syrup for a while; let her rest.
    My friend saved a magnificent old oak surrounded by paving by soaking it’s roots every day or two. It was in a bad state. It’s back to being magnificent. 🙂 She has to keep up with the deep soaking now and forever due to the paving, but it’s worth it.

  35. Lois M Baron says:

    Is a donkey easier than a goat? I know miniature horses can be house-trained to act as service animals. Anyone know if that goes for donkeys too? Little donkeys are adorable! Wouldn’t a little donkey look cute sitting on Karen’s big furniture??!

  36. kathy says:

    Bits of lace and whore, you keep excelling yourself. Could even be a name for a store. But it’s the city tree trimming that zapped my fun. You didn’t call them chainsaw maniacs destroying your tree so I’m sure my city uses a different service. Power lines down the middle of facing backyards with trees here and there and to “prevent problems” trimmers have come by over the last several years. Their aggressive tree attack, me stating stop now, and no one speaking ENGLISH was a mess. But over the years they’ve killed my maple and neighbors pecan. Now removing those trees is our expense. Yeah I get pissed.

  37. Lynda Loy says:

    I am new to your blog and absolutely love it! Sorry about your tree, always hate to see big old trees come down! If worse comes to worse and you can’t save it have you thought about having a piece of furniture or something made out of it? That way you would have it forever. As to the bees…I don’t know, we’ve had them off and on over the years and it has become harder to keep them alive. As to a goat they will positively eat ANYTHING! Had one to eat the bud right out of rows of young tobacco plants! (This was years ago.) Good luck on whatever you decide!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lynda! And yes … I may just end up sticking with cats, fish and chickens. And of course the sloth. ~ karen!

  38. Heather says:

    This is my second year having bees and I’m conflicted on whether or not to recommend others to get them. They aren’t a lot of work like you mentioned, but what I have found is that they are kind of stressful for me. The stressful part isn’t if I’m going to get stung it is trying to make sure that they stay, are healthy, and make it through the winter. There are so many things that can go wrong and they are not a cheap “pet” to have. Last winter I lost both of my hives. One had laying workers that I tried to correct, but they ended up killing my $40 queen that I bought to hopefully take over :(. The other hive had a huge mite problem that I just couldn’t get under control (even with treatments) and died off. The investment is costly up front. You can cut your costs if you build the stuff yourself, but I never had time and was always going to the bee store last minute to buy everything pre assembled. I’m in Portland, Oregon and the cost of a nuc (colony) of hives is $100-180 (I’ve heard of other places being a lot more expensive), which is very expensive if they don’t last you a year!

    This year my two colonies are doing really well. I’ll actually be harvesting my second batch of honey from them today and will probably have gotten a total of 4 gallons of honey this year. The honey that they produced is so sweet and delicious (the main nectar flow here is from the blackberries). I joke around with friends that the cost of my honey to make up for the time and money I put into them is about $50 for a 8 oz jar! It is really relaxing to watch the bees flying into and out of the hive and when they were gone before I got my new bees I missed watching them (it’s like an airport of bees flying in and out of the hives). My bees have not been aggressive at all, but I have heard stories of some being aggressive. Usually it means they are queenless or you have a mean queen & you just need to kill her and replace her with one that is hopefully nicer :). I also have a bigger yard, so I don’t know how it would be to have them in a small space. I have friends that do and they seem to be fine, but I’ve also known their hives to swarm into their neighbor’s yards.

    I guess my best advice if you get them is to find someone in your area that has kept bees for awhile and have them be your mentor. Down here in Oregon they have a Master Beekeeper class through one of the colleges and it’s a year long program that teaches you all about bees and connects you with a mentor. It’s an amazing program and a great resource.

    Lastly, you’ll come to think yellow jackets are even bigger assholes! Once the nectar flow is over they start coming around the hives trying to kill your bees to eat them and the honey (I’ve heard of them killing off hives of bees). I feel like I go into battle mode with them starting in late July until Oct-Nov and I hate them so much! Word of advice though, put out yellow jacket traps in the early spring because that is when the queens are out flying around and if you catch a queen you prevent a colony from starting!

    • Karen says:

      I have lots of beekeeping friends so that wouldn’t be a problem, it’s the time. :/ I really should make underwear a priority over bees. ~ karen!

    • Mary says:

      You are so right! I am laughing at myself as I read your comment. I have had a fascination with honeybees since my great uncle tended them back in Illinois. I have read about beekeeping, read ‘The Secret Life Of Bees’, joined local Beekeeping organizations, taken classes, fantasized about being a “ bee farmer” for 52 years and finally made the leap 2 years ago……a personal mistake. The mental stress killed me. si I felt so responsible about everything! Insecticides, pesticides, moisture, cooling, pests, disease, etc. My bees were beautiful, healthy, and joyous to watch. I had some major family issues last Spring and although the bees were resilient to my neglect for awhile they did finally die. Now friends of mine, that are inspectors and longtime bee keepers are encouraging me to start over this year, and I say “no”. It does not take a lot of time but it does involve a lot of concern and doing things right. The responsibility was overwhelming.
      I just wanted to write this and give a word of warning to beginner beekeepers that you have a responsibility!

      • Heather O'Neill says:

        Mary, I decided that if my bees didn’t make it through this winter I was going to take a break (maybe indefinitely). One hive has made it through and appears to be thriving. I see no activity in the other hive, so I assume that they are dead. I completely relate to your story!

  39. Katie Ch. says:

    I’m sorry about the maple. It added so much to your to your yard. 🙁

    However, you could possible create some Bee Gum hives using the trunk of the tree so it won’t be completely gone.

    https://grossmannsbees.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/hive-what-is-a-bee-gum-hive/

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