Text 28 Jan Hurtling toward a Honey-colored Spring

It’s been a while since my last post. Balancing school and bees and blog is still a developing skill for me. Anyway, I’ll bring you up to speed.

I had a meeting last saturday with Melanie-an alumna of the college who is now a beekeeper with 14 years experience and now raises queens and nucleus colonies-and Paul-an alumnus who is the husband of one of the school librarian with 5 years experience and lives nearby. I also met with the head building and grounds, Thom Stone. He’s a helpful, pragmatic guy and gave me some ideas for siting the bees. As it is now, there are several concerns that I must address to establish bees:

1. who takes care of them when I am not around?

2. The bees must be away from highly populated areas

3. Places with little human traffic have potential bear hazards

Far from being discouraging, these sorts of things are opportunities for exercising creative thought. 

On my walk with Melanie and Paul, we went up to the old water tower behind the campus. It used to be the water source for campus, but it has fencing around it which would effective bear protection. Of course, chain-link fencing is rather unattractive, so my hope is to place the bees inside the fencing but to grow some climbing plants on the fence. I’m thinking clematis as it can be used as smoker fuel.

As for the first concern, Melanie suggested that the bees be under the official care of a local beekeeper and that care would be provided by them until a program is established. This would allow a contingency if the program flops, but also takes the pressure off to find someone immediately who can take over for me. I’m only a freshman, so there isn’t really any student who will be here longer than me. I’m also hoping to persuade some department to give one of their work-study positions to beekeeping, which would allow me to work on the bees and get paid for it.

As it stands now, the plan is to get bees in may from Melanie or Paul and begin with langstroth hives because they are easier for beginners. Sometime in February, my friend Dylan and I are hoping to take a road trip with Melanie to visit her hives in Las Cruces, but I’ll post on that when it gets closer to the date.

As a side note, my charter has been sent to the student constitution committee. It will probably be sent back with a request of an addendum on safety procedures. I have a proposal which includes safety plans and procedures, so on request, I’ll copy and paste from the big proposal to give the committee what they want.

As for the earth-sheltered bee shed plan, I am working on plans and trying to find out if there would be any objections to building it. So far, I haven’t heard any, but I am still learning who to talk to about what on campus. 

Anyway, that’s the update for now. I’ll post again when I’ve more to say.

Text 9 Jan January 9th: Writing a charter

I was informed today that I will have to draft a charter to be approved by the constitution committee and tribunals in the student government. I was sent a template for the charter. I have been drafting a proposal for a while, so I have all of this information already; it’s now a matter of putting it in the template. 

I’ll publish the charter when I finish it.

Text 8 Jan Apiary: Location considerations

I am a little impatient for term to start so that I can approach Polity-the student government-for funding. However, the time left to me provides an opportunity to do my due diligence on formulating a plan and proposal.

The prevailing winds in Santa Fe move come from the south, so it is important to orient the hives so that the entrance is facing north. This is, of course, if the apiary is not sheltered by a hill, which is the situation I am hoping for as I can also use the hill to build an earth-sheltered bee shed. Now, with this problem solved, another arises. What is the best orientation of the hives to provide optimum solar exposure?

Thinking of the hives as passive solar houses, they must be oriented such that the inhabitants will most effeciently maintain their ideal temperature. Although Honeybees are quite capable of regulating temperature in the hive, energy spent on temperature regulation is energy that could be spent on foraging, honey production and the rearing of brood. For Honeybees the ideal temperature is 93-94 Degrees F in the brood area. So, in the winter, the sun should heat this area, while in the summer, there should be shade to keep this area cool. This can be done by making an overhang on the entrance-side of the hive. Another thing to consider is ventilation, but this is factored into the design of most hives, so there is no need currently to reinvent the wheel. Water is also an essential part of temperature regulation in the hive, as it is evaporated to help with cooling. Luckily, there is a pond nearby with lots of vegetation for bees to land on and get a drink.

Now, I am planning to begin with top-bar hives as they will be the cheapest and simplest to build, so all that is left is to scout the site that meets these requirements-and others which I am probably unaware of-and design the apiary for easy movement for bees and keepers. I’ll post sketches when I get to them.

Text 6 Jan St. John’s beekeeping so far…

When I first got on campus, I was so eager to get bees going that I was talking to people on my third day here, and I received loads of support and resources: so much so that I was slightly overwhelmed. However, finding a rhythm with classes and course work soon took my attention and I had to put beekeeping on the backburner til Christmas break. This has been beneficial for two reasons: I have established a routine which allows me to get all of my work done, and I now have an idea of how much time I can devote to the beekeeping project.

I have emailed the local beekeeping associations mostly to just establish a connection, and they have been very welcoming. There is also an alumna who now raises queen bees and nucleus hives, and she responded to my first email very positively. I should have included a bit about my prior experience with bees, which I neglected to do. The better idea people you are asking for help have of you the more likely they are to be willing to help.

I am hoping to attend a meeting sometime soon with the Sangre de Cristo Beekeeping Association.

I have also been pulling together a proposal for the activity. It’s been very helpful to meet with administrators and get their advice. Everyone I’ve talked to has been supportive, which I am sure is not the case on other campuses, so I am grateful. I also work for the student activity coordinator, which is a good ally to have. She is very supportive and will provide space for the activity on the grounds around the gym.

The biggest concern is how the activity will sustain itself beyond my involvement. The first means of addressing this is providing a contingency plan for the event that there is no one to care for the bees. One of the college librarians is married to a beekeeper who is willing to take care of the bees, otherwise I could probably find a member of the local beekeeper’s association to take care of it.

As for actually perpetuating the activity, as long as there is interest from underclassmen who are willing to learn and take over, the activity will continue. This is where being active on the campus will help: the more exposure the activity can get, the more likely it is that new members will join.

Once school starts back, I’m going to take a proposal to the student government to request start-up funding.

A side note that I will expand on later:

The activity will need a shed, and since I have another long-term project to do with alternative construction, I’d like to integrate this with that project so that it is a way for people interested to gain experience with alternative building methods and materials. My hope is that the shed will be an earth-sheltered hut(think hobbit hole) costing between $100-$300.

you can find an example of this here:


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